sunlight through ice covered trees
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As I type out this article, I can’t stop thinking about my drive to work today. After days of clouds, ice, snow, and more clouds, the sun shone brightly as it crept over the eastern horizon. As sunbeams edged further across the landscape the trees became illuminated with a rainbow of light. It was spectacular!

Yet, as beautiful a sight to behold, a thought crept into my head, “Would I still find this beautiful if ice adorned trees every day?” Perhaps the true feeling of beauty is the swiftness of it all. Just yesterday these trees were stark white silhouettes in a cloud heavy sky. Today only mere moments of light refracting within the canopy of trees will soon lead to the ice melting as temperatures climb with the rising sun. As I write, and certainly by the time you read this, the tree limbs will have shed their icy burden. The landscape will have changed.

Change can be difficult. Heart-breaking. Frightening. It can be joyful. It can pass by unforeseen. Change can bring beauty. Farmers depend on change. Even if that change comes with an unpredictable nature. Gardeners must thrive in change. Longing for summer flowers. Wishing for cooler temperatures. Cursing the rise of a pest. Celebrating the return of spring.

2020 brought a changed world and had me thinking a lot about life and purpose. My work at the University of Illinois Extension is incredibly fulfilling. Every day I get a chance to help someone by providing information so they can navigate their change. It can be as simple as talking about controlling weeds in a lawn or conversely encouraging more wildflowers in a lawn. It can be big too. Such as working with others to figure out how can we get recycling to rural residents.

Much of what I do at work focuses on positive change. But I cannot do it alone. I am fortunate to work with skilled and ambitious colleagues. But our efforts only go so far. It is within volunteers that so much of our reach depends. Whether it is growing food for pantries or teaching to instill the love of nature in our youngest generation, our volunteers play a pivotal role to help Extension enact positive change.

We would love for you to be part of our volunteer groups of Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists. The volunteer group name of “Master” can be misleading. These are not groups of know-it-all experts of gardening and conservation. It is a group of people curious about the natural world with a drive to spread useful research-based knowledge to improve our communities. If you want to help others, please consider calling your local Extension office about how to get involved.

I’ll be clear, I’m not sure how volunteering will look for 2021. What will we be able to do? But rest assured, even in 2020, we didn’t stop, and we will keep working to enact positive change. As we go forward, we will figure it out together.

My mind wanders deeper into thought during my drive to work. Life is full of change and we only have our lifetimes to experience that change. Living in the moment is an important part of that journey. I am grateful to watch the sunrise through an ice-laden tree canopy, knowing that same sunlight will evaporate the very beauty it creates. Yes, there is an inevitable loss. But that was one heck of a car ride. Remember to cherish your moments of the journey. The fleeting nature of life gives us purpose. If change is unstoppable, then perhaps the goal is for us to work to make it a positive change.

Good Growing Tip of the Week: One way to help us remember the beauty, fun, and lessons we experience through life is to keep a journal. Make time at the beginning or end of the day or week to pen the events in words or sketch.