On the bus which rumbled along a winding asphalt road with forests on either side of the thoroughfare, we sang in full voice. I was nine years old and headed for one of my favorite places in all the world which I still visit often.
I was part of a group of kids who had been signed up for a day camp where children my age would take packed lunches of baloney sandwiches, pieces of fruit, and slices of pound cake. The area which had been set aside for us was in the Euclid Creek reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks.
During a few weeks of the summer, several days a week, we kids would be taken to a park shelter from where we would walk in the woods on both sides of the Euclid Creek which eventually flowed into a river which eventually reached Lake Erie.
Years later, I sometimes visit that shelter where we would gather after we left the bus which took us to the park. I always look across the creek, knowing where I will go next. I still step across the stones of the creek and enter the woods, following a trail to our campsite where, as a child, my group of day campers would sing songs and learn about the woods from our counselors.
I thought about those childhood days as I walked through the Cleveland Metroparks Rocky River reservation. Cutting a wet trail through those woods is the Rocky River, which snakes its way to Lake Erie. I was in the Metroparks to report a story on how Summer is loosening its grip on the land and Autumn is making its inevitable entry.
One of the things I like about the Cleveland Metroparks is its consistent look. The trees, waters, and animals look as they did when I was a kid many decades ago. In the park, I am still learning. Jen Brumfield, one of the naturalists who is always excited about nature's offerings, cannot hold back her joy for the outdoors. We spoke of the calendar page's turn from one season to another. "That length of night then starts to turn some things like trees into a mode of self-preservation," she said, explaining how trees begin their seasonal change. "They know that soon there will come a long winter."
Jen's excitement is contagious. She helped me understand why the seasons change and how to see the signs on the plants and in the animals. "So we hear the katydids and we hear the black-legged meadow katydids and we hear all these insects," she said her eyes almost glowing as the naturalist surveys the acres surrounding us. "They remind us that Summer is almost over."
Her statement is not said as a lament, but as a fact. Jen looks forward to Autumn and what it will bring. Already, the leaves on the trees have begun their changes in color. The sky even has a different look -- on this day, bluer. Jen and I walk through the Metroparks, simply taking in the scene.
At the same time, my mind races back many years to my time on the bus as it pulled into the Euclid Creek reservation of the Metroparks. There was always a sense of excitement for what the day would bring and what my nine-year-old eyes would see.
That excitement stayed with me the day I spent with Jen Brumfield in the Metroparks. We talked of the system's 23,000 acres of green which almost ring the city of Cleveland like a necklace. "The Emerald Necklance," said Jen, noting the nickname of the Metroparks.
Much of the Cleveland Metroparks are as they were when I was a child. Wonderfully beautiful. And going through a seasonal change. Summer is slipping into Autumn. It is my favorite time.