Reflections on Simplicity and Voices of the World of Nature




George Washington Carver wrote, “If you love it enough, anything will talk to you.”
Those words took on a deeper meaning from 100 feet up on the catwalk of the South Manitou Island lighthouse, an 1871 structure that looks out over the sometimes treacherous waters of the Manitou Passage.

The catwalk was the perfect place to reflect, dream and listen to the audible and silent voices of nature. And that location gifted me with precious time disconnected from the fast paced world of modern civilization that swamps the mind with distraction, clutter and confusion.

I have just returned from a five week stay as the South Manitou Island lighthouse keeper at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. (During those five weeks I climbed the 117 iron spiral steps of that historic structure 189 times to reach the catwalk.)

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“You cannot perceive beauty but with a serene mind.” Take those words from Henry David Thoreau and blend them with the words of Carver and a new portal to nature unfolds and adds much needed simplicity and inspiration to partake in a more rewarding, simpler and enriching life, be it on South Manitou Island, or on the Wilder Side of Oakland County.

July is more than a month for boisterous outdoor activities, picnics and parties. July brings us fireflies and first flights of fledgling barn swallows. Day lilies bloom along rural roadsides. Black raspberries ripen. Butterflies flit to milkweed. Gray tree frogs sing before thunder rumbles. Turtles sun on logs. Osprey soar over lakes. Eastern Bluebirds hunt the meadows. The many voices of nature are all saying, “Come walk with me.”

July is an easy time to search out the simple wonders of nature and let them talk to you. Walk any park, any trail or any woodland, or find a place to sit in a meadow, watch the sky and follow the trail of the wind and clouds.

Paddle in or sit quietly by a river as an observer, not an intruder. Rise with the dawn’s early light and let the flitting and singing of birds greet you. There is something mysteriously beautiful in finding a quiet spot to wait for the curtain of dusk and listen for the last songs of the catbirds and first song of the bullfrogs.

The secret to searching out the soothing beauty of simplicity is too consciously disconnect from distractions. All distractions. And that requires turning off your electronic tether, the Smartphone, and embracing the flow of nature’s pace. Go walking. It’s easy to do in our county, a landscape rich with parks, trails, woodlands, wildlands, ponds and lakes.

Find your ‘lighthouse’, a place to sit silently, observe, and let the simple wonders of nature in July come to you. That’s when you deepen your awareness of nature’s way and can hear her wonders talking to you.

Jonathan Schechter is the Nature Education Writer for Oakland County Government and blogs weekly about nature’s way, trails, and wildlife on the Wilder Side of Oakland County.

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