I often use the hashtag #getoutside when I tweet nature related posts on Twitter. It is a simple enough concept but one that is regrettably undervalued and underutilized. Studies have proven the benefits of immersing oneself in nature, ranging from the physical aspect that hiking, cycling and gardening etc. provide to the emotional clarity, serenity and peace one can achieve from being outdoors.
Feeling particularly melancholy this St. Patrick's Day, I decided to take a dose of my own medicine. Peeling myself off the warm couch took some effort and on the way to grab my coat a whole rush of excuses not to leave the house came flooding into my brain. Its only 34F out I thought. There is laundry that needs folding. You could be starting dinner. Thankfully I was able to brush off these pesky little notions and make my way out to the porch as I had intended. Within seconds of stepping outside, the cold air had found its way through the fabric of my coat and I almost turned back to the house. But something inside me was aching for a sign of spring and I felt compelled to find a glimmer of hope that would solidify this brutal Ohio winter was indeed coming to a close. And then without even leaving my own backyard, I received my sign.
|Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar|
There on the still frozen ground, lay a fuzzy black caterpillar barely moving but very much alive. Immediately enthralled by this creature, I started taking pictures and totally forgot about the temperature or that I had been sad just moments before.
A quick Google image search and I discovered I was in the presence of a Giant Leopard Moth caterpillar. These nocturnal, widely distributed moths are non poisonous in their caterpillar stage and feed mostly on broad-leaved plants such as violets, dandelions and plantains. They are named after the beautiful spotted coloration that covers its impressive 3 inch wingspan, making this adult moth not only gorgeous but impressively sized as well. After emerging from its cocoon, the Leopard moth does not eat and only lives long enough to mate and lay eggs rarely flying before dusk. I read on to learn the caterpillar I had found was fully grown and should have been hibernating under leaves, tree bark or other debris at this time in the season. Perhaps a bird had dislodged him from his hiding place in interest of a meal or maybe he had ventured out needing an extra boost of nutrition before winter came to a close. Whatever the reason for his appearance, I felt blessed to have found this gift from nature.
As I sat in the sun watching the birds breaking open sunflower seeds, I began to notice other tiny gifts, more subtle signs that spring was near. The dull winter plumage of the goldfinches beginning to yellow, little green shoots of wildflowers and tulips poking up through a carpet of decaying leaves and the tiny buds forming on the ends of the maple branches all made a world of difference to me. Simple, free and pure but a powerful therapy I cherish. I am so glad I took my own advice and got outside today. After just a brief period spent exploring, listening and appreciating nature I felt renewed, refreshed and ready to smile again. Which for me, made for one very lucky St. Patrick's Day.