Selected Essays – Nature

Nature Essays


By Dennis C. Orvis

Waverly Iowa is my hometown, so I am from the Midwest. Iowa is rural America. My town was small and basically, it was a farming community. I grew up in a broken home, which can be summed up by saying, “We never went on a family vacation, ever.”

When I was a teenager in the 1940’s if I had been asked to make a list of things I would like to see in the United States, it would have been a pretty short list. It would be foolish today to try and create that list, for my world then was rather small. Perhaps, for the sake of interest my list would have included the Empire State Building, Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon and an ocean. I am just guessing, of course.

Maybe this is why I have always liked to travel. During the past half century I have been extremely blessed because my wife and I have traveled and visited every one of the fifty States. I use the word extremely here because I believe truly; the number of people who do this in their lifetime is probably quite small. I say this without any proof, but I have known many who have not traveled beyond their bordering States.

They have missed a whole lot. We live in the greatest Country in the World and every one of the fifty States has things to be proud of and worth seeing. Think of this for a moment. If, every year, you could spend one month in a different State, you would see a lot, but you could not see everything. And it would take a half-century to do this.

Although I have been to all fifty States, I have only seen the “main” attractions. I do not claim to have seen it all.

We have a Country of many Wonders. I do have a favorite, but before I tell you which one it is, I am going to list a few that I would hope everyone could visit in his or her lifetime. These are listed as I thought of them and not in any order of importance.

The Statue of Liberty
The Empire State Building
Niagara Falls
The White Mountains in the fall
The Smokies, the Rockies
Mountains in general
The beauty of Alaska
Old Faithful
The Grand Tetons
Zion National Park
Grand Canyon
The Great Salt Lake
The Great Lakes
The Florida Beaches
Stone Mountain Georgia
Mount Rushmore
Hoover Dam
The Nation’s Capitol
The White House
The monuments of Washington D.C.
The St. Louis Arch
Carlsbad Cavern
LasVegas at night
The Museums of Chicago
New Orleans at night
The Riverwalk in San Antonio
The Alamo and Missions
The Smithsonian Institute
The Dinosaur Nat. Monument
The Four Corners of U.S.
The Cliff Dwellings
Lake Pontchartrain Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge
The Washington and Brooklyn Bridges
Hot Springs Arkansas
The Petrified Forrest
Wisconsin Dells
Crater Lake
Mount St. Helens
Mt. Rainer, highest in U.S.
The Pacific Ocean at Oregon
The Outer Banks, Atlantic Ocean
Mount McKinley
Mason City Iowa
Mall of America
The Masters’ Golf Course
Historical Boston
Historical Philadelphia
The Atlantic Coast in Maine
Disneyland and Disney World
St. Augustine Florida
The Badlands of South Dakota
The Mansions of Newport Rhode Island
Rainbows over Pearl Harbor

…And so much more. I cannot list all the National Parks we have visited or the many Zoos, of all sizes and qualities. There is so much more.

So are you wondering what my favorite Wonder in the United States is? What could possibly be missing from the list above?

Hmmm! Well, my all-time favorite Wonder is the Giant Sequoia Trees, the big Redwood Trees of California. Years ago, one of them even had a highway cut through it at the base. I don’t know whose idea that was, but today, it could never happen. Unfortunately, that particular tree fell a few years ago. The damage took years, but it finally destroyed the tree. Imagine, though, if you parked your car in front of one of those mature trees, the tree could stick out five to ten feet past both ends of your car. Many of the big trees have names, like General Grant and General Sherman, etc.

My Favorite Wonder

Throughout the big tree forest you will see little seedlings, one or two feet high, each with a sign identifying them to give them protection. It is hard to look at one of those little seedlings and even imagine they might some day be as big as the mature trees nearby. I have seen the big trees twice. The first time was in the summer months. The second time they were covered with a very late snowfall and some of the park roads were closed. Both times the trees were just stunning. The natural beauty was overwhelming.
Touch the bark and say to yourself, this tree is a living thing, hundreds of years old or a thousand or maybe more! That is awesome to the max!

To me these wonderful trees serve to emphasize the greatness of God and the Bounty of the greatness he bestowed on the United States. The big trees are awesome majesty. So is our Nation that too often is taken for granted or faulted over some point that is insignificant in the big picture. If I could wish that everyone could see what I have seen, what a wondrous gift that might be. And so I do….especially for you!


Written 2004

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