Backyard park offers joys and teachings

Nature continues to speak. And I try my best to listen.

If you’re a regular reader of this column, you know that already. I write about weeds and winds. Sunsets and afternoon shadows. Pastures and peach orchards.

Many times, among the details, I sprinkle examples of joys and lessons that our observing these things might bring. Such is the case again today. I can’t seem to escape from seeing more than just leaves and sunbeams.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit what some of my friends call their “park.” It’s a six-and-a-half-acre expanse behind their house on Highway 544, a few short miles from the Ruston city limits. The house itself sits on three-and-a-half acres so, overall, we’re talking a 10-acre spread.

I’ve visited them before, sat on the back porch, watched the hummingbirds, admired the flowers and even saw a deer from time to time. But I never had the pleasure of touring the park and had no idea what all it entailed.

I’m so glad I found out.

The reason we dropped by this particular evening was to view a huge black walnut tree that had fallen into the creek that serves as the dividing line between the backyard and the park. All the recent rains proved too much for it as it clung to the banks of the stream.

Actually, I had little knowledge of the creek. I knew it was there and knew it passed under the bridge just before you get to our friends’ house. But I had no idea of the wonder it offers up to those in that neck of the woods.

That evening, an acquaintance of our friends sat near a bend in the creek with professional-looking equipment, working on the trunk of the downed tree that had been pulled from the water. He plans to make a table from the big pieces, wooden spoons from the small pieces, and who knows what all else. To say that I was impressed is putting it mildly.

After some oohing and ahhing, Jean offered to take me on a ride in their little off-road vehicle. Again, I had no idea ….

We crossed a small wooden bridge that spans the winding creek and entered into the park in earnest. A profusion of trees native to North Louisiana greeted us, along with several trails crisscrossing the area. I noticed that almost every single stick had been picked up and the undergrowth had been mowed – except for the native ferns, of course. We found huckleberry bushes as well as mulberry trees (I ate two mulberries – my first ever).

After we returned over the bridge, nearer the house, we also came upon an apple and a pear tree, both laden with immature fruit. Jean said this was the first year either tree had produced more than one or two pieces. Her husband had wanted to chop them down, but she convinced him otherwise.

So, what are the joys and lessons here? The joys speak for themselves: Nature offers a cornucopia of delights in almost every realm. We just have to get out and let our senses engage.

The lessons? Among the sights and smells and sounds that we find, we can be rejuvenated … Something beautiful may be waiting across the creek, so we need to set out to find it … It pays to work together, and in so doing, unfortunate situations can turn into blessings … Things can be salvaged from what looks like refuse – in both our surroundings and our lives …

And sometimes it pays to wait for a situation – or a person – to bear fruit, but in the end, it’s worth it.

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Thomas FieldsThomas “Tuffy” Fields is an author and regular contributor to The Gazette. He can …

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