The beauty beneath the surface

One thing I love about my daily walk outside is that even when I take a familiar path, I always notice something new. Recently, however, my walk in the woods was becoming a little too routine. And I realized that I needed to take the opportunity to consciously pause where I previously didn’t see beauty, and look closer.

When I lived in Virginia, my walks in the woods were accompanied by towering white oaks, and I could easily see and appreciate the undulating ground and nature’s beauty along a winding path. Now in Colorado, my path takes me through much shorter scrub oak, which I don’t find particularly beautiful. In fact, I find the sight of their bare, twisted branches a bit abrasive. Rather than looking at the scrub oak, I’ve always chosen instead to look at the ever-present, sparkling snow along the path and mountains in the distance.

However, during my Friday afternoon snowshoe walk or “nature therapy” as I call it, I decided to stop, remove my ear buds blasting with a favorite song, and intentionally stare at what I typically avoid. I slowly took in the scrub oak all around me. And the beauty I saw surprised me.

As took a few moments intermittently to stare at large patches of scrub oak, I noticed subtle movements. In all directions, it was the same. I looked closer, and started to see black-capped chickadees all around. I heard their cheerful calls. Every day prior, I had passed the scrub oak and never took the time to notice what I thought not to be beautiful was teeming with life. I suddenly had a whole new appreciation for scrub oak as an important habitat for one of my favorite birds. Better yet, as I continued along the path, three chickadees seemed to be following me, which brought a huge smile to my face.

Yesterday, I was reminded of the lessons from Friday’s walk. When I asked my eight year old how he wanted to spend time together, he asked to go snowshoeing for the first time. And, once again, I experienced how fantastic it is to witness the natural world through a child. There was far less snowshoeing and a lot more pausing to notice the beauty beneath the surface: to follow tracks (elk), sit to hear sounds (an eagle’s screech), and observe subtle movements we would otherwise miss (a woodpecker).

My wish for you is the same. There is a special beauty in Winter; may you pause to discover and enjoy its gifts that are there for us every day.

About Rebecca P. Cohen
Rebecca P. Cohen is the go-to spokesperson for outdoor activities any time of the year.  Rebecca is author of the book, 15 Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids (Sourcebooks), the digital excerpt The Best Outdoor Activities for Families: Wintertime, and inventor of Rebecca Plants Curiosity Cards. Rebecca’s work has been featured in Better Home and Gardens, Parenting, Redbook, Working Mother, Family Circle, Backyard Solutions, and has appeared on live morning news shows around the country. Rebecca has been a proud ambassador of the Seeds of Change Sowing Millions Project and featured as a spokesmom for the National Wildlife Federation’s Be Out There movement on PBS Wild Animal Baby.  She has inspired thousands with her public appearances and community and school events, and motivates still more to follow their dreams and passions as the host of Wish It, Dream It, Do It! radio. For more information visit

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4 Responses to “The beauty beneath the surface”

  1. Jo Anne Casey Says:

    Beautifully written! Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Starla J King Says:

    Rebecca, I read this post shortly after you posted it.. and it’s been with me ever since. The feeling of it, and the lesson/reminder of it… plus anytime I read anything about you and your boys, my heart melts.

    So thank you, dear. xo

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