To Stop and To Notice

Summer Staff Reflection

Written by Hannah Horling, Education Programs Assistant (Summer 2023)
Edited by Madison Martinez, Communications and Administrative Coordinator

August 2023

At the Cedar Haven Eco-Centre, we encourage children to become observers, to be curious and to notice the creation that surrounds them. In our summer day camps, Wild Things, the summer team, made up of Sarah (Environmental Education Coordinator), the Education Program Assistants (Alleluia and me), and our conservation and grounds maintenance folks (Jeremy and Brent), spent the last few months fostering wonder. We did this to help the kids see the beauty of the natural world and learn to care for the life that is around them. It’s not always easy to remember to look more closely at the places that we are in, so developing this skill can be so important. This summer, I got a similar sense of the wonder and awe we see in the children when the A Rocha Ontario summer team went on a field trip to Cootes Paradise, part of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, ON.

Cootes Paradise is a large and diverse nature sanctuary made up of a 320-hectare river-mouth marsh, 16 different creeks and 25 kilometres of shoreline. I pass Cootes Paradise Marsh often while I’m in the city, fairly often this summer, but I don’t always give it as much thought as it’s easy to be distracted by the busyness of the city or the nearby highway. But as soon as we set our canoe into the water, I was awestruck by the abundance of birds and turtles that I did not expect to see in a place so close to downtown Hamilton. 

The Royal Botanical Gardens showed an outline of the plan for protecting this wetland. It was through the work of conservation and restoration that it remains and is improving this way and will hopefully continue to become a flourishing ecosystem for all sorts of species, even while it remains so close to the city of Hamilton. It was quite amazing!

After paddling and spending time in the Royal Botanical Gardens identifying plants and trees. We also took the time to reflect on what we had done throughout the day and discuss what stuck out to us. The discussion ultimately left me thinking about place, where we are in it and how we care for and grow in that place. I determined that the first step is to notice. 

In those moments when we paused, jaws dropped by the flocks of cormorants that flapped their wings in the air and slapped their feet against the water. Or we were amazed by the Bald Eagles that emerged from the trees or by the dozens of Great Blue Herons and Egrets that perched themselves in the trees. I discovered something new about the place that I have lived in for the last three years! Because I have only really experienced Hamilton during the winter, spring and fall, I have not had a chance to see the escarpment, the trails, or Coote’s Paradise in the summer. Observing this has allowed me to develop a closer feeling to where I live. It was when we stopped to notice that I saw the natural beauty and results of the initiatives that I had only heard about.

I believe the same can be done wherever we may find ourselves. Whether it is a preserved sanctuary, a nature reserve, the Cedar Haven Eco-Centre, a backyard or a local park, we all have the ability to stop and to notice. 

It reminds me of the words that were said to Job, “Listen to this Job; stop and consider God’s Wonders” (Job 37:14). 

When we stop, see and consider the beauty around us, we begin to understand the functions of living things and the roles that they play in creation. From there we can more gratefully care for these things. By stopping to consider the wonders, we will better understand the significance of each created thing and become more wholehearted stewards.

Young woman smiling at the camera, during a winter hike. The background is a snowy forest.

About the Author

Hannah Horlings was one of the Education Program Assistants at A Rocha Ontario during the summer of 2023. In her role, Hannah co-lead the Wild Things summer day camp program. Hannah lives and works in Hamilton, ON, but she is originally from Holland Marsh,ON (wetland and agricultural area roughly 50km north of Toronto). Currently, Hannah is a student at Redeemer University where she studies Social Work.

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