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Thursday, February 2, 2017

There's so much to love, with many reasons to go out and explore, and to enjoy in the great outdoors

There’s so much to love, with many reasons to go out and explore, and to enjoy in the great outdoors
By:  Michael Lander

Nothing more symbolizes Memphis and its history than the
Mississippi River and there are few things in our river city
that are more beautiful than seeing the sun setting behind
this mighty and timeless and ever-flowing river.

What’s not to love about the great outdoors?

And, when it comes to scenic and picturesque outdoor places, Memphis certainly has more than its fair share of them for people to enjoy.

From the spectacular view of the Mississippi River, (especially at sunset), to the panoramic view of the Heart of the Park at Shelby Farms, to the sight of the 142 acres of the Old Forest at Overton Park, to the natural and urban landscape along the Shelby Farms Greenline and the ever-expanding Wolf River Greenway, to the countless sights that we have from downtown to East Memphis, from North to South Memphis, and so many places in between, we have so much that we can and should be proud of and can love about our river city.

Regrettably, for far too many of us, we often fail to take the opportunity to see and visit and to experience the places that we have all around us.

Spanning the mighty Mississippi River from Memphis to
West Memphis, Ark. are the Memphis and Arkansas, the
Frisco, and the Harahan Bridge in the foreground and
the Hernando DeSoto Bridge in the background.  The
Harahan has recently had a bicycle and pedestrian
pathway (known as the Big River Crossing) installed,
which will eventually connect to a multi-state trail that
will run from St. Louis to New Orleans.

And, even when we do go to some of the many great outdoor places that we have, we fail to consider one of the best ways to explore what we have, which is to walk, run, or to ride a bike to and from and through them.

Being able to see and enjoy the great outdoors may be one of the best and most rewarding experiences in life whether it is in Memphis, or anywhere else for that matter.

From the parks and public lands in and around Memphis, to those throughout the rest of the country, there are so places that we all can go to see and where we can take in the beauty that surrounds us.  Whether it is the mountains, forests, valleys, meadows, and plains, or some of our coastlines, there is a distinctive and unique beauty of each of these places and there are a seemingly endless number of places for us to go out, to embrace, and to fully enjoy.

Even within an urban environment, there are always
reminders of the brilliant and vivid colors and the
effervescent beauty of nature.  This image is of
an area in downtown Memphis on North Main
Street near Court Square.

Wherever you go, there is something in nature and in the great outdoors that is deeply and profoundly restorative for the mind, body, and soul.

When you are outdoors, your perspective of life can change, time can sometimes feel as if it is slowing down or stopping, and you can find yourself standing in awe of a world that allows you to feel the warmth of the sunshine, feel the wind upon your skin, breathe the fresh air, smell a plethora of fragrances around you, see and hear the sounds of insects, birds, and various creatures near you, and see and feel the earth beneath you.   

Whenever you see and experience the magnificent beauty and grandeur of nature, it is virtually impossible not to see it as a gift presented to us from the very hand of God.

Cyclists and pedestrians are greeted with a colorful
bicycle archway as they enter Memphis' historic
Overton Park from East Parkway.  The 342-acre
public park was saved in 1971 when the Citizens
to preserve Overton Park won their Supreme
Court case against the State of Tennessee thereby
preventing it from proceeding with their plans
of having Interstate 40 from running through there.

And, while we may not all feel an immediate attraction, or an affinity, to nature and the great outdoors, most of us seem to have a certain need, or an innate desire, that resides within us and compels us to be outdoors.

Whether there is a genetic link or a primal need that instinctively lies within each of us, or it is just a simple love and an appreciation of what can be found outdoors, the need is very real, none-the-less.   

With all that it is and all that it does, there is little wonder that artists, poets, writers, theologians and others have, for many centuries, found nature to be a place for peace, contemplation, and inspiration.

Nature and the great outdoors are also wonderful way to escape the insulated, disconnected indoor worlds that so many of us find ourselves confined to in our modern day lives.  This may be why cycling has so much appeal because it can provide us with one of the best and healthiest ways to more intimately enjoy the outdoors and to satisfy our need to be out in it.

Overton Park is a popular park in the heart of Memphis
with an old forest that walkers, runners, and cyclists
frequently visit and where they can readily, and
easily, access and enjoy all that comes from being
around nature and the great outdoors.

Whether you ride on roads on paved or unpaved trails, bicycles can take you to practically any place that you want to go.

Is there really any price that you could ever put on that?

Sadly, however, there are some who do want to do just that.

We live in a time when nature and our environment are being threatened, more than ever, by a growing chorus of those who are much more interested in business ventures and who are pushing for less regulation, and who are much less interested in maintaining clean air and water, in protecting and preserving parks and public lands, and who not seeking to further ensure that fragile habitats and ecological systems with wildlife and various endangered species are not negatively impacted.

Memphis' extremely popular Shelby Farms Park has
recently undergone a massive renovation and
improvement project, which included, among
other things, a completely new facelift in an
area known as its Heart of the Park.  The park is
a great get-away for Memphis area residents
who want to do a wide variety of outdoor
activities and who want to experience nature
without having to travel very far in order to do
For us, and for future generations, we should never be so shortsighted that we ever place business and profits over everything else and ignore the possible consequences of overriding environmental concerns, or what might be in our best interests, and the safety and welfare of us living now and those to come.

Nothing is worth the exploitation and ruination of nature and our environment.

Instead, we have much more to gain from conservation and preservation efforts and we must never fail to see the value of what we have with nature and the great outdoors.

There are so many intangibles that we gain from nature and one of these is what it can teach us.

The Shelby Farms Greenline, the Wolf River Greenway,
and other trails, (both paved and unpaved in the
Memphis metropolitan area) provide an ample
opportunity for people to see and experience a wide
variety of natural and urban landscapes.

Nineteenth Century banker, politician, and philanthropist, John Lubbock, once said that the “earth and sky, woods, and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent school masters and teach us more than we can ever learn from books.”

Let us all seek to do as Lubbock said and try to find all that can come from the great outdoors. 

The experience can greatly enhance and change your life for the better if you only let it.