What Makes You Feel Grateful This Year?

It’s Thanksgiving here in the U.S., and in a world filled with so much to worry about, there are also, if we think about it, numerous things to give thanks for. Here are three things, related to this blog, for which I’m grateful today.

First, for the lovely discovery – made just this week by five young whooping cranes – of the joy of long distance flight. Until Tuesday, these young whooping crane colts, known as the Class of 2014, had flown only a handful of miles together on this, their first ever migration flight. This was almost exclusively due to impossible weather conditions (for the aircraft and cranes to fly together).  However, on the few days with perfect conditions the colts seemed to have perhaps forgotten what was learned during their summer training sessions in Wisconsin.

But that all changed Tuesday, when they followed an ultralight for 65 miles and on Wednesday when they did it again. Click on the links to read all about the lead pilots’ reports for each day: ” . . . . “these migration flights were in them the whole time,” wrote OM’s Brooke Penneypacker, “just waiting for the right conditions to appear, and once again impress us all with their magic, their grandeur, and their amazing gifts.”

The second thing I’m grateful for today is my personal discovery this year, through this blog, of John Muir (as well as the very active Wisconsin Friends of John Muir). Of course I wasn’t “discovering” Muir for the very first time when I wrote about him here, in January, but it was the beginning of really getting to know the details of his life, his personal odysseys in the wilderness of the Great Lakes areas, then in the west in the Sierra Nevada, as well as Alaska. And to appreciate what his personal dedication to the beauty of natural wonders has left this country.

Finally, I’m grateful for Yosemite National Park in the heart of the Sierra Nevada, which I believe could adequately be described as Muir’s lifelong muse. Before the Yosemite Valley was Muir’s muse, though, it served that function for pioneer photographer Carleton Watkins (1829-1916).

Watkins’ prints of Yosemite’s valleys, waterfalls, massive rock faces, and majestic trees, provided some of the world’s first pictures of that special place. Yesterday I saw an exhibit of Watkins’ exquisite Yosemite photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (on display through February 1, 2015), and that reminded me of my gratitude for Yosemite.

Carleton Watkins, Yosemite Valley, California, ca 1865 (at Wikimedia).  On exhibit until Feb. 1, 2015, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.

Carleton Watkins, Yosemite Valley, California, ca 1865 (at Wikimedia). On exhibit until Feb. 1, 2015, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.

The photos on display are primarily from the Special Collections Library at Stanford University, according to ArtDaily.org: “It was partly due to the artistry and rugged beautify of these photographs that President Lincoln signed a bill on June 30, 1864, declaring the valley inviolate and initiating the blueprint for the nation’s national park system.” And then along came John Muir, who was soon eager to expand on that vision.

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