Summer Challenge: Sterling Nature Center

Published August 6, 2014 by Susan Woodward

“I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live and could not spare any more time for that one” (Thoreau, “Conclusion”, Walden).

On my fifth day, it was time to pack up and leave the little cabin in the woods.

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.”

         (Robert Frost, from “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening”)

I knew that I had responsibilities awaiting me at home and that as much as I was loving my mini Walden Experiment, it was also time for me to return. At least I did not leave with a heavy heart because a line I’d heard somewhere kept running through my mind: “Do not cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.” And so I am smiling.

I took the long way home meandering along Lake Ontario (well, as best as the roads and shoreline would allow… the shore has SO many inlets to it that keeping the lake in view on my right was impossible), and I made one last stop to take a little hike before I had to get home and prepare for an appointment that evening.

For many years, I have driven to Sterling, NY to go to the Renaissance Festival. Every time I drove there, I’d noticed the signs for Sterling Nature Center, but I had never stopped by. Today I did.

Sterling Nature CenterI am sooo glad I stopped! The wooded path took me directly to the lake shore so that she could sing to me a “so long” song till we would meet again.

Sterling ShorelineWhile strolling along the beach, I was surprised at the bluffs that appeared around a bend. At first I thought I must be at Chimney Bluffs, and I had to do a mental calculation of how far along the 104 I had driven for that to be true. Turns out that these are different bluffs, but just as magnificent.

Lakeshore Sterling Nature CenterI sat down to rest and to just listen to the shore-song, all the while thinking about how much I loved the sound and feeling of the breeze. Breathing deeply, I looked out on the water that was dotted here and there with sailboats, and looked up to watch the gulls circle lazily back and forth, almost in rhythm with the boats. I was again filled with gratitude at being able to just be here at this moment. I really did have to pull myself away because I knew that I had “promises to keep.”

heart stoneAs I stood up from the large rock I’d been perched upon, I happened to look down at the rocks that were immediately next to me…and I saw it. It was my final gift for this sojourn- a heart shaped rock that had been worn and shaped by the lake herself.

Refusal to Let GoJust before I turned away from the shore to take the path through the woods to return to my car, I noticed the trunk of an old tree still clinging to the edge of the lake. That is how I felt about my heart; even though the rest of me had to leave this place, my heart belongs to the song of moving water. Whether it is a creek, a waterfall, or the lapping waves of the oceans and lake shores into which I have been privileged enough to dip my toes, that call of the water sings to my soul.

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours” (Thoreau, “Conclusion,” Walden).

I hiked with MapMyWalk! Distance: 1.28mi, time: 45:45, pace: 35:41min/mi, speed: 1.68mi/h.
http://mapmywalk.com/workout/678847473

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