Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: A Special Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving Day Walk At Teaneck Creek

      Every Thanksgiving is special ,and even more so for those of us who grew up loving the outdoors . I thought I would repost my column that I wrote back in 2011.  A Thanksgiving morning nature walk means even more now than it ever has.

Thanksgiving was always a special day for my brother and I. It meant much more to us than having a big dinner and watching football. It was a day we would get outside and enjoy nature together.

This wasn’t the only day of the year we would get together and relish the wonderful natural places we had around us but this was our day, a special time we set aside each year to appreciate the natural places we had close to our home in the Meadowlands.

Thanksgiving morning for us meant a walk around Losen Slote Creek or Teterboro woods. It was our wilderness , our Meadowlands, a place we both loved . Even when life separated us for a time we would talk on the phone on that Thanksgiving morning and reminisce about the time we saw the Barred Owl looking down at us from a Pin Oak in Teterboro woods,  or finding a mouse hanging from a tree branch, placed there by a Northern Shrike and the American Bittern that stood only a few feet from us impersonating the tall reed grasses of the Marsh.

The memories of all those special  mornings stayed with us no matter what else was going on in our lives. We would always have that time to go back to whenever we needed to feel the need to be together no matter where time had taken us.

But all things change in nature. Nothing stays the same. Things die, others are born. That’s what nature is. But some things are not supposed to happen this way. Younger brothers are meant to outlive their older brothers. But nature pays no attention to human plans. Nature’s only concern is that the trees, the birds and wildlife continue on. My brother was gone; gone many years before his time.

In the years since his passing Thanksgiving mornings have never been the same. Even though I lead many field trips to our Meadowlands throughout the year, Thanksgiving mornings would find me sitting around the house thinking back to those wonderful mornings but still unable to bring myself to walk along those same trails we both loved .

It was still a special morning for me but I couldn’t find the strength to share it with anyone else. I thought I would just be left with the old memories for the rest of my days. But this year, just a few days before Thanksgiving I felt something different.

I thought that just sitting in the house this Thanksgiving morning would not be right, not be what my brother would want me to do at all. I decided that I would go out this Thanksgiving morning, go back to some of the places we loved and maybe try and see if anyone one else would like to join me.

I wasn’t sure if anyone would come out on this beautiful Meadowlands Thanksgiving morning. After all, everyone had dinner, family and traveling to think about and so I thought If I had to do this walk by myself it would be OK, that is what I would do. But I would not just sit inside and think back. No, not this Thanksgiving.

As 9A.M. came closer six people drove up to the parking lot at Losen Slote Creek Park in Little Ferry, an area  my brother and I loved to spend some of our special mornings.  Everyone was excited to be there and thought it was a great idea that I decided to have a Thanksgiving nature walk.

At first it was difficult to take others with me on this day. I could feel my little brother next to me, hear his voice. I was feeling a bit down and slightly hesitant but in just a while the Fox Sparrows , Red-winged Blackbirds and a Great Blue Heron helped me realize this was the right thing to do.

My brother would have loved the idea of getting others out on this special morning and helping introduce them to the same places that we enjoyed together. After many years of having an empty feeling on Thanksgiving mornings a sense of peace came over me. Mature and the good folks that joined me  helped me to understand that the experience I enjoyed in the Meadowlands with my brother for all those years was not meant to be lost or kept to myself. It was meant to be shared and passed on so more people could love those same places in the same way that we did.

Near the end of our walk I took a quick glance up to a large tree in the distance and there stood an adult Bald Eagle, still an incredible sight to me. I tried to think of what my brother would have thought about seeing a Bald Eagle in a place that he loved so dearly. I don’t think we could have even imagined seeing an eagle here 12 years ago yet there it was for all of us on this special Thanksgiving morning to see.

I’m sure my brother would have loved it and would have been even happier knowing that I helped some folks see one for the first time.

On the way back to our cars someone turned to me and as asked, “Don, could we do a Thanksgiving walk every year? Maybe start a new tradition ?”  I answered, “Yes, that would be a great idea. Thanksgiving morning could be a special day for everyone to get out with friends and families and continue the tradition of enjoying nature.

I like to think that if my brother was still here he would be with me, helping me show people the wonders of nature in the Meadowlands, especially on Thanksgiving mornings.

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