I’ve just come back from a two-week trip across parts of the country previously unknown to me. We started in Oregon, drove through Idaho into Wyoming and ended our family trip in Montana.

We experienced the wonders of nature in many forms. From Mt. Hood, to Craters of the Moon to the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone and Custer National Forest.  

Within each, we witnessed majestic views, the vastness of the great plains, spectacular waterfalls, lush forests, impressive geyser fields, herds of bison and elk, soaring hawks, eagles and osprey, two meandering moose and one adorable bear cub eating berries on the mountain side.

During this trip we, of course, drove many miles, but also walked, hiked, went horseback riding and even white water rafting.

Our feet ventured into new paths and our eyes opened to things previously relegated to nature films, pictures and zoos.

This is all to say that we appreciated parts of the country and our planet in new and even profound ways.  

To appreciate something often requires that we experience it first hand. No picture or description of the Grand Tetons can even begin to approximate the feeling one gets when it stands before you.

How we choose to experience something also contributes to our level of appreciation.

As writer and naturalist Bill Bryson wrote,“If you drive to, say, Shenandoah National Park, or the Great Smoky Mountains, you’ll get some appreciation for the scale and beauty of the outdoors. When you walk into it, then you see it in a completely different way. You discover it in a much slower, more majestic sort of way.”

For all the beauty we witnessed, I do wish we could have experienced more  at Bryon’s preferred “slower, majestic sort of way.”  Less time spent worrying if your child would recklessly run ahead and slip off a cliff or trying to keep to a schedule of moving to the next place or thing as if you had a checklist that nature would just laugh at.

More time spent, just sitting, gazing and appreciating what is standing right in front of you,

Of  course, this trip serves as a not too subtle reminder for how we treat  many things today. Too seldom stopping to appreciate the people, places and things that give our life meaning.

When was the last time you just stopped and watched your partner, child,  friend or even pet immersed in a task? Or sat with no device to distract you, book to transport you, checklist to nag you and just looked either to the outside world or inside your own mind and reflected on the wonder of it all?

We throw words around like appreciation without doing the simple work required to truly appreciate anything.

As I end this piece, I’m reflecting on each of you, who on a Monday morning, as a busy week beckons, is now taking a handful of your valuable minutes to read this.  

Thank you.  I truly appreciate it…and you.

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