Summer has clearly arrived, with hot, muggy weather and thunderstorms. And flowers and beautiful trees.

I have started taking daily walks up and down our road, in order to get exercise — it is getting hard for me to get out of the house and drive to my usual exercise venues. So, I am now trying to walk daily, about one to two miles, up and down the road ... and my road is really up and down!

It is sometimes a struggle to go up those hills. I love walking outdoors, because I get to see so many fascinating things around me. I have driven up and down this road for over 30 years now, and I realize, as I am now walking up and down this road, that I was not previously aware of what is really out there.

One doesn’t see the flowers, the terrain, the “micro-climates,” when zipping by in a car. I take my cellphone along on every walk, along with a bottle of water, and I stop frequently to take pictures of wildflowers and interesting plants as I walk. I then look them up in a flower identification book when I get home.

About a month ago as I was walking home, down the hill, I saw some tiny purple flowers growing out of the rocky bank on the south side of the road, which is fairly shady. I looked closely and realized that these were “fringed polygala” flowers. I recognized them because I had seen some several years ago at Little Buffalo State Park and had photographed them.

Wow, I never realized we had fringed polygalas here on my road, too! At the same time, I found some wild Columbine.

As I walk, I have been able to watch the wildflower “menu” change from week to week. The fringed polygalas are now gone, but were replaced by Bowman’s Knots, Maple Leafed Viburnums and Mountain Laurel, all of which are mostly gone now. I have seen “Bitter Nightshade” at the top of the hill, only on the north side of the road. Also, there is celandine growing on the north side of the road. And I have identified “storks bill” flowers, speedwell, and recently, Scarlet Pimpernels and Virginia Rose.

What a wonderful blessing to be able to find all this beautiful wildlife just walking near my home. Seeing the natural world is a source of so much joy.

A couple of weeks ago I was out putting seed into our bird feeder (I feed all year around), and I got “buzzed” by a rather angry looking Ruby Throated Hummingbird. He was reminding me that I was falling down on the job, and had not yet put out the hummingbird feeder. So, I immediately took care of that, and I was blessed to see him return and feed at it. Daily I get to see many wild birds come to the feeders.

I also see interesting birds as I walk. A couple of days ago I saw an Indigo Bunting fly across the road in front of me. As I walked in the rain, a cardinal swooped past me. A few days ago, as I went to put the bird feeders back out, there was a deer on the driveway. It didn’t run away very fast, so we got to watch it for a minute.

And why do I put the bird feeders out every morning? Because I have learned that a raccoon likes to come raid them at night. I have actually taken pictures and videos of this raccoon, a female we call “Trouble,” raiding the bird feeders. She has in the past broken several bird feeders. So, in order to keep feeding the birds without going broke, I bring the feeders in at night.

I feel so very blessed to be alive and to see so much beauty in the world around me. I am reminded that Judaism has traditional blessings to say for many natural phenomena. I thought I would share some with you, so you can recite them yourselves when you see some wonderful natural occurrence.

On seeing the wonders of nature: “Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Ruler of the universe, who created the Universe.”

On seeing an electrical storm: “Blessed are you, Eternal our God, Ruler of the Universe, whose might and power fill the world”.

On seeing a rainbow: “Blessed are you, Eternal our God, Ruler of the Universe, who remembers Your Covenant, and keeps your promise faithfully.” (Wondering why this wording? Check out the story of Noah in Genesis).

On seeing the ocean: “Blessed are you, Eternal our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has made the great sea.”

On seeing beauties of nature: “Blessed are you, Eternal our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has such as these in Your world.”

On seeing trees blossoming: “Blessed are you, Eternal our God, Ruler of the Universe, how has withheld nothing from Your world, and has created therein beautiful creatures and goodly trees for the enjoyment of mankind.”

I hope that you can daily stop and remember the blessings you experience every day. Sometimes it is hard to realize that they are there, because we are so busy just trying to survive and get through our days. But we are surrounded by so much beauty. Every day that we see the beauties of the world, we are blessed again, and reminded that we are stewards of a miraculous creation.

Emily Burt-Hedrick is the President of the Congregation Beth Tikvah

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