Mason Neck Park (http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/mas.shtml)
July 9, 2012 This was a day to enjoy the creation in our own Northern Virginia. The psalmists of the Bible loved creation and wrote many creation psalms to celebrate it. Some of them are: Psalm 145, 104, 33, and 8. The way I feel when I read one of them is the way I felt when I took this walk with Buddy. Praise God for all the wonderful and glorious nature from the ant to the majestic Bald Eagle.
This is our ‘go-to’ park. We have been going here since we were first married. Our children have gone there since they were five weeks old. We have gone hiking, biking (nice bike trail inside the park that then goes up to Gunston Hall and Pohick Bay Park), picnicking, kite flying, canoeing, and just playing at the playground. There is always a lot to do here. It is a State Park combined with a National Wildlife Refuge (http://www.fws.gov/refuges/profiles/index.cfm?id=51610).
It has a great variety of habitats from woods, to marsh, to beach. During the week there isn’t much traffic but on the weekends it’s full of people picnicking and taking advantage of the ranger programs. They have remodeled the ranger/visitor center and it now has restrooms and a store with ice cream. There are plenty of brochures from birding to offerings of paddling expeditions.
I chose to go here today as penance for being away from our dog, Buddy, for 11 days. Evidently he was abused prior to his coming to
our home and he has ‘issues’. He would never, ever stand for being in a kennel and he just barely makes it when we leave him with his faithful dog sitter, Mr. B, from next door. He is Buddy’s buddy and Buddy the dog just loves him to pieces. So because I felt guilty for leaving him alone for so long I decided I should take him out for a treat to the only park he knows. Buddy has been there plenty of times (he doesn’t like car rides or change very much) and so he and I went for a walk all by ourselves. We had a great time. I take seriously God’s opening directive for humanity to care for the creation. Some read that has have dominion over, but that is not quite the way to interpret that word. It means more to take care of and I see taking care of our pets as a sacred trust, just as I see it is our job as humans to take care of all of creation be it geysers in Yellowstone National Park or Bald Eagles at Mason Neck State Park.
We have seen numerous animals here over the years: snakes, squirrels, red fox, deer, frogs, turtles (some laying eggs), skinks, fish, and birds: specifically – Tree Swallows, Osprey, Bald Eagles, Blue Herons, Canada geese, Snow geese, crows, Blue birds, misc. ducks, Turkey vultures, misc. hawks, misc. sparrows, owls, Northern Flickers, Cardinals, Gold Finches, etc. If you come during the week you can always find a blue tailed skink at the water fountain and soda machines outside the restrooms in the picnic area. He isn’t out much on the weekends; too many people.
Today we saw plenty of squirrels, Blue Bird, Great Blue Heron, Canada Geese, Tree Swallows, a big bull frog (size of a dessert plate), and a deer going through the marsh.
The Pawpaw trees are in fruit.
We had a lovely walk along the Bay View Trail. As we began the park had put up a sign emphasizing their goal of providing for “Children in Nature”. My lay leader at Silverbrook United Methodist Church and Retreat Center, Kathy Brown, has told me about a new disorder that our children suffer from: Nature deficit disorder go to (http://www.cbf.org/Page.aspx?pid=687) to find out more about it. Basically our children aren’t getting enough nature and outdoor activity and it is hurting and hindering them in a multitude of ways.
As she was describing this to me I was very thankful for my parents who took so much time to take us out and learn about nature. I was very glad that even though I live in a busy suburban area I have taken time out for our family to be in nature – whether that is learning where vegetables come from at Great County Farms (http://www.greatcountryfarms.com/) or taking them to national parks and nature settings for our family vacations. We also heard a little about this at Annual Conference when the Shalom Farms (http://shalomfarms.org/about.html) speaker told us about children who didn’t know anything about where vegetables came from and how they didn’t want to get dirty or eat things that came from the ground.
The Bay View Trial was very quiet and peaceful. We were the first ones on the trail that day as evidenced by the multiple spider webs we walked through on the path. It’s only a mile but you sure see a lot as you go from the edge of the bay to the woods and come out back at the picnic area. It is a joy to see Buddy happy and sniffing away. I even walked a little slower and looked about a lot as he sniffed. He takes that admonition to stop and smell the roses (or whatever else) seriously and that helps me to stop and enjoy the sights and sounds of creation. Oftentimes when we walk at home I have to get back to do something or I am in ‘I have to get my exercise – so walk faster Buddy mode’, but today was his walk, his way and he got time to smell every ‘flower’ he wanted. And I got to see a lot more as a result of going Buddy’s pace.
Thankfully the heat had dropped from 100 F the previous day to a much more comfortable 80 F. They had a derecho storm on June 29 while we were in Yellowstone and there was quite a bit of evidence to wind on the path and next to it. The rangers had quite a job picking up after the wind storm.
I heard a few bird calls I didn’t know and because of the density of the woods I couldn’t identify them so I guess it’s back to the Audubon cd’s to figure out which birds I heard but didn’t see. God is like that – we often hear or feel the presence of the Holy but do not see God directly – like one can’t see the wind but can see the affects or evidence of wind.
After our hike on the Bay View Trail we hiked over to the visitor center and talked to the Ranger for awhile and we found out about this park contest: You can support the creation and your local park by voting for your favorite park and maybe they will get some grant money. I voted for Mason Neck. **** America is Your Park – sponsored by Coca Cola. Your favorite park can win a grant of $100,000. Go to livepositively.com to find out how you can vote online or how to generate votes by checking in from the park using Foursquare. Contest ends July 15, 2012 ****