By Merrill Preece, 34th Ave
The Madrona Woods: an oasis of trees and ferns at the edge of Lake Washington. A beautiful place to walk your dog, go jogging, or as I do, simply sit. Almost every day for the past six months, I have sat in the Madrona Woods as part of my naturalist training. My goal? To get to know that patch of nature at
every time of day, in every season. I’ve sat in rain and snow and wind, watched beautiful sunrises peek over the Cascades, and seen the crows fly south as the sky grows dark. In the fall,
I watched mushrooms that within days went from tiny fungi to giants. In the winter, I learned to identify plants by their twigs and paid attention to how the snow changed the landscape.
Now, as spring begins, I’ve watched as the Indian Plum lights up the woods with its greenery, the first trillium bloom, and the swampy areas fill with skunk cabbages. I have watched bushtits and crows carry lichen and twigs to their nesting spots and kept an eye on the pair of bald eagles in the tallest Douglas Fir, waiting to see if they’ll use their nest this year.
As Earth Day approaches, I think of how grateful I am to the woods and how much they mean to our community. Natural spaces are important, not only for the plants and animals that call them home, but also for the health of the people who live around them. Whether you call it a nature walk or forest bathing, studies show that time spent outdoors is essential to our well-being. I’ve noticed a difference in my perspective since starting this practice. I greet each day with more reverence. Before going on a walk through the woods, I make a conscious shift to be respectful, to remember that although I am in a city and can hear the cars on Lake Washington Blvd, I am still in a wild space. I make an effort to pick up trash, to step carefully, and to take the time to appreciate all that I see and hear around me. When I
go to write down all I am grateful for, my list overflows with what I experience in the woods.
I am grateful for the soil as it holds the roots of the plants that surround me as I sit and listen. I am grateful for the rain soaking into the ground and trickling down the moss-covered trees. I am grateful for the vibrant spring leaves which make the woods feel full and new again. I am grateful for the birds – their morning chorus, their twittering calls, the tapping of the woodpecker, the majesty of the eagles. I am grateful to the trees – Douglas Fir, Bigleaf Maple, Western Redcedar, and more – who make this space wild by providing homes and shade and food. I am grateful to the wind for refreshing everything, for making leaves dance, for bringing in the clouds. I am grateful for the sun for making spider webs shimmer, for the golden dappled light that shines through the leaves, for the warmth on my cheek. I am grateful for all those before me who have cared for this bit of earth and for inspiring me to do the same.