Thursday, April 07, 2011

Wildflowers, Gratitude, and Process

About two weeks ago, I wrote about wildflowers, in my first post in a planned series on "Grief and Gratitude." Last week, Daniel and I went north for three days on what we like to call a "flower trip." Our trip strengthened my belief that one of the most effective ways of strengthening our “thankfulness muscle” is to appreciate not only the places we get to, but how we get there and what we find along the way.

Our destination was the Galilee, one of Israel’s most popular areas for vacations and certainly its most beloved for nature trips. Armed with our trusty Wildflowers of Israel book, we hoped to see as many as possible of the hundreds of species of wildflowers that bloom there in early spring, but especially the rare kinds we'd never managed too see in the past. I couldn’t wait to get there and taste the relaxation I inevitably experience in the North – by now a conditioned reflex that kicks in as soon as we enter those rolling green hills.

But we didn’t let our haste to “get there” prevent us from going a longer way around in order to stop at some other places that were likely to be just as lovely in this season. So we made a detour to the coast, to the Sharon Park near Hadera, part of which is a nature reserve and a larger part of which is blessedly undeveloped, at least for the moment.

As always, we found a riot of color every direction we looked, and more varieties of blooms than we could count. Our eyes were treated to lovely sights whether they looked closely at a small patch of ground:

Or further off toward the horizon:

We left the park elated, and drove straight to the guest house where we'd reserved a room, in the Druze town of Beit Jann on one of the peaks of the Meron mountain complex. There we were surprised to find the rooms located in a partially unfinished house, over a supermarket. Not the most romantic of spots, but the room was clean and well-furnished, if not quite warm enough (the residents are used to the high-altitude temperatures), and the view beautiful. Our hosts were also lovely, and we got to know a bit about the lives of Israel’s Druze citizens, so what our accommodations lacked in luxury was more than made up for by a novel and interesting experience.

We dedicated our first excursion to orchids, of which there are several wild types blooming right now in Israel. This is some of what we found on the way to the orchids:

And when we got there:

Encouraged by our success, we decided to go to the Nicha Ruin, a hill that not only contains the remains of a Byzantine church but, according to the good book, should be covered in late March with wild tulips. (We’d gone there a few years ago earlier in the season, and had found only the first few blooms.) By now, surely there’d be tulips as far as the eyes could see!

Well, this year the rains came late, and not so much as a single tulip was budding. But what we found on the way up and on the way down was so gorgeous that it was easy to forgive Mother Earth for withholding her tulips.

The uncommonly lovely sight of patches of “common” irises:

And others:

We finished at Nicha in the late afternoon – the best time, we’re told, to watch for birds, which descend from the skies just before sunset to fill the trees near bodies of water. So we headed over to a nearby spot next to the Jordan River. Well, no birds, but we did get to spend a contemplative hour next to the incomparable sight and sound of burbling water:

The next day we went off in search of the legendary Forest Admonit, which grows only one place in the world – right next to Beit Jann. As you’ve probably guessed by now, these flowers were also waiting for the warm, dry spell that hadn’t yet arrived, so we made do with the less rare but no less beautiful flowers that graced the sides of Mt. Meron:

The next day we didn’t have time to stop on the way home, but enjoyed the drive thanks to Vivaldi, Mozart, Louis Armstrong, Judy Garland, and many others. I arrived home relaxed and happy, and ready once again to tackle the pressures of my non-vacation routine.

It's easy to miss out on life's most precious experiences if we’re so concentrated on our objectives that we don’t allow ourselves to notice and savor the process of reaching them. I’m sure that to the extent I remember to be mindful of, and thankful for, what I find on the route to my goals, I strengthen my resilience – and multiply my happiness.

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