Friday, Dec 15, 2017
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Matt Markey

Grateful for the gorges, gators, green space, and good people

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    Conkle's Hollow State Nature Preserve has one of the deepest gorges in Ohio and is one of the many spectacular natural features of the Hocking Hills region in the southeastern part of the state.

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Thanksgiving Day has gone through a metamorphosis since the early 1600s and the celebrations by the Pilgrims and Puritans. I’m guessing they would shun the concept of deep-fried turkeys, NFL games, or pre-Black Friday sales.

What likely started as a time to gather with family and celebrate a good harvest, while also thanking the Creator for such a blessing, now seems to be heavy on the food and skimpy on the expressions of gratitude. In our 100-mile-per-hour smartphone lives, this might be the day to hit the pause button and consider those many unique gifts that make us some of the most fortunate people on the planet.

It might sound a bit unconventional, but before the slabs of turkey, the mountains of mashed potatoes, the pies, and the cranberry salad, take inventory of where you are, the important folks in your life, and all of those benefits that don’t come with a deduction line on your paycheck.

Look out across the global landscape and realize it is not to be taken lightly that we live in the best place on the planet. Our country is not perfect, and we hash over its problems and issues daily, but there is a logical reason millions of folks from around the world want to come here and live. This grand experiment called America still is the land of unlimited opportunity.

We should be thankful every day that this still is a place where one can feel safe, pursue a dream, and find all of the basics for a happy and fulfilling life. When we are born into such surroundings, we hardly consider the other options, but as we age there is a growing appreciation for being geographically blessed.

Without leaving the safety of our country’s borders, we can marvel at the Everglades teeming with life, stand in awe as we try to take in the breadth of the Grand Canyon, be overwhelmed by the mystery and magic of Yellowstone, and question why we are so fortunate to have so much of the world’s freshwater cached in our Great Lakes.

We can never show enough gratitude to those who came before us and built this country, or to those who safeguard its existence today. Maybe the best way to express our appreciation for all of their efforts is to respect and revere the treasures we have, and make certain the next generation — and the one after that — does the same.

On a more personal level, I am grateful today and every day for being blessed with wonderful parents, and I have expressed that thankfulness often in this space. They came from humble beginnings, served their country at its most difficult hour, became a doctor and a nurse through hard work and sacrifice, then spent the next half century basically just caring for others and giving to others.

I am grateful, too, for my eight sisters and five brothers, and although we have personalities, professions, and politics that span across a spectrum and a half, the bond never wavers. From Maryland to Montana, San Diego to Seattle, and Ohio to Sonoma County, we remain caring, steadfastly loyal, and concerned for each other.

Closer to home, I count my immediate family as my greatest blessing, since having a strong and supportive wife and wonderful sons and daughters who are all healthy, respectful of their grandparents, and conscientious about their roles in this world likely does not put me in the majority. I am endlessly grateful for them and the quality people that they are.

Count me as thankful, too, for the legions of great folks I have had the opportunity to meet and become friends with along the outdoors trail. Birders and naturalists, anglers and artists, explorers and conservationists, authors and taxidermists, hunters and campers, mariners and waterkeepers, and many more — they restore my faith in the goodness of humanity, and they do so on a daily basis.

I can’t name them all, and would attempt to do so at my peril since leaving someone out likely would leave me much more chagrined than the omitted party, since humility is part of their shared DNA.

The people I am referring to are those who carry the banner for a clean lake, protected wetlands, habitat preservation and expansion, sensible siting of green energy projects, and common sense management of our parks, fishery, and wild spaces. I am grateful for the dedicated biologists and law enforcement personnel in Ohio and Michigan, whose job description might carry the expectation of being “thankless,” but a closer look reveals their level of commitment we all should emulate.

I am thankful for all of the other experts, the professionals out there who have likely forgotten more about conservation and hunting and fishing than I’m ever going to know, and always find the time to share their expertise with me so I can share it with our readers.

I thank the good friends I have made at Devils Lake, Luna Pier, South Bass Island, Hocking Hills, Point Place, Prince of Wales Island, Sandusky Bay, Barbeau, Des Plaines River, Magee Marsh, Seneca Army Depot, Prince Edward Island, and dozens of other places in our region and beyond. They make a good job a great one with their passion for the outdoors, and their generosity.

It’s Thanksgiving, but I’m not thinking about the food or the football. I am instead filled with gratitude and respect for the country where I live, the parents I had and their endless commitment to their family and their faith, the safety and happiness of my immediate family, the great friendships I have personal and professional, and good health, good neighbors, and 15 years with a darned good dog.

Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6068.

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