Nature Meditation #16 – Elevating my Place

“As time went by, I realized that the particular place I’d chosen was less important than the fact that I’d chosen a place and focused my life around it. Although the island has taken on great significance for me, it’s no more inherently beautiful or meaningful than any other place on earth. What makes a place special is the way it buries itself inside the heart, not whether it’s flat or rugged, rich or austere, wet or arid, gentle or harsh, warm or cold, wild or tame. Every place, like every person, is elevated by the love and respect shown toward it, and by the way in which its bounty is received.” – Richard Nelson, The Island Within.

Elevating place. I read this quote and I realize that I have chosen a place and focused my life around it. With the exception of a few months right after college, I’ve lived my entire life in the state of Oklahoma. There have been times when I’ve wondered why I’ve spent my life here. I won’t go into the circumstances around those times. We all feel frustrations and disappointments in our lives, both with people and opportunities. But this quote provided a chance for me to think about why I have never left the state where I was born.

One big reason is that I love the experience of four very different seasons. Winter can be brutal, with ice storms that crack the limbs of ancient trees and snow that piles against the fences and strands people in their homes. But it can also be glorious sunny 50 degree days perfect for hiking and playing football in the yard. Yes, Spring can be wild with storms, but it can also be beautiful as the trees progress from a fuzz of green buds to full blown leaves, red buds blossom in pink and fruit trees burst with white. Summer can be hot and humid, but it can also be filled with sunrises and sunsets that warrant photographs and pictures with red and pink hues and turquoise tints that rival an artist’s deepest imagination. Fall in Oklahoma can be any of the above! A mixture of hot and cold and wind and rain. Or it can be glorious 70 degree no-wind-days with native trees whose leaves turn gold, yellow, red and all shades in between, emphasized by the evergreen of cedars and pines, hollies and magnolias.

But its not just the seasons, it’s the diversity. Oklahoma drops over a mile in elevation from the northwestern corner of the panhandle to the swampy lands of the southeast corner. Rainfall varies across the state from a scant 15 inches per year in the west to over 50 inches a year in the east. The state has four mountain ranges, far more ancient than even the Appalachians, and more miles of lake shoreline than the east and Gulf coasts combined. We have short grass prairies, mixed grass prairies and tall grass prairies. We have crosstimber forests, oak-pine forests and oak-hickory forests. We have wetlands, lakes, rivers, sand dunes. We have 34 native species of trees. All this means that there are many, many outdoor sites to explore, offering every possible combination of natural terrain except for oceans and high alpine.

The state’s history includes Civil War battles, Native American struggles, the Trail of Tears, and the legacy of Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory. Land runs opened the state to settlement in the 1890s, promising 160-acre tracks to anyone with the stamina to race for the claim and then make a living on the land. Our ancestry is rich, full of immigrants from Ireland, Italy, England, Germany, Laos, Vietnam, Mexico and more, intertwined with a Native American culture that preceeded all of them.

I’ve discovered state parks and natural areas that rival almost everything I’ve seen anywhere else in the United States. To top it all off, there are good people here. People who believe in doing the right thing. Self-sufficient, trustworthy people willing to give a hand-up when needed. 

Oklahoma is my place, and I have focused my life around it, and tried to elevate it with my respect.



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