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Relive Nature Experiences

Ranger Steve

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Pictures, family stories, and journals are a way to relive experiences. During this time when we are on lock-down and expected to stay at home, get out the albums and vacation journals to remind you of outdoor times with family. Each family member will recall special events and the whole family will spark memories. 

Spring is a great time to begin noting observations in a journal. Someday, you or a family member will enjoy reading the observations and they will bring memories to the forefront. Experiences disappear in brain recesses but are ignited when read in journals. Many would otherwise be lost forever. Some of our experiences follow.

This month we witnessed a Tom Turkey displaying at Ody Brook to entice a hen. Once a Tom turkey saw me as a real turkey at the Howard Christensen Nature Center, approached and mated with my boot. Another time I received a Michigan DNR call inquiring if I had seen any turkeys lately. I participated with them in the reintroduction of turkeys in the Rogue River State Game Area. By odd chance the night before the call, I saw 70 turkeys cross the road in the game area as I drove home. I had not seen any for quite a while and by good fortune saw many that night. My dad referred to such things as a result of “living right.” 

Once when we were driving home from my grandparents in the 1950’s, we saw a Great Blue Heron with a broken wing. We took it to the humane society with hopes they could help it survive and recover. 

At Petoskey State Park on a chilly day we put our inflatable boat in the water near the swimming beach. People were not swimming in the cold water on the pleasant breezy day. My oldest daughter who was about 8 or 9 was rowing in shallow water. An offshore wind was blowing her “out to sea.” To no avail, I instructed how to row to shore. When I saw she was getting into deep water, I realized I needed to swim to rescue her. It was frightening to swim in 40ºF water over my head. If I recall correctly, I shed pants and shirt so they would not weigh me down. I swam in my underwear and once I got to the boat and put my arm through the rope, I relaxed. I no longer thought I could drown. People on the beach were anxiously watching and I figured someone would get help if I got into serious trouble. I pulled her to shore and all was good including the memory.

Some events are positive and some negative but nearly all are a pleasure to recall and discuss at family gatherings and enjoy in retrospect. 

When I have encountered black bears in wild places, they have run from me or at least ignored me and went about their business. Once on a hiking trail in Grand Tetons, two cubs crossed the trail in front of Karen and me with the sow trailing behind. We stopped. We saw two people approaching from the opposite direction and we feared they would walk between the mother and her cubs. I called to the people instructing them to stop until the bear passed. They refused to stop and trudged on without concern. If the bear attacked them to protect her cubs from potential danger, it is likely the bear would have been killed by the park service. 

I began journal writing in 1962 and now I am entering data in Volume 52. In 2011 I began entering natural history observations directly to a Word document with each volume corresponding to the calendar year. I keep Excel Files for many daily sightings for easier organization. I can look up Ody Brook flowering dates, bird sightings, butterfly occurrences among other nature niche happenings. My natural history studies are recorded along with family explorations and substantive thoughts. Hopefully my grandkids and great grandkids will find pleasure reading of times long past. They will learn new things about their parents and even things about themselves. I am transcribing my handwritten journals to Word Docs and get to relive events. It is a joy. 

As a young person, I thought in my old age I would be able to relive experiences via my journals and pictures when unable to physically explore remote wildernesses. We recall family outings when we get together. One person’s memory jogs another’s. Ask family members about what they recall and everyone can relive favorite experiences. Keep making new memories but take joy recalling those from the past.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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