Ever wonder how nature provides an abundance of gifts for us to discover, explore and learn from everyday? In the midst of our busy lives, is there one thing about nature that you gravitate to? A particular song of a bird, the ebb and flow of the tide, the falling of leaves, the ripening of fruit or the first glimpse of the moon? How do your friends remember you? Besides the emails, electronic gadgets, books, music and love for certain foods, is there something that will trigger a memory of you in nature?

I still think of my late mother-in-law when I encounter any type of deer, as she was fond of them. Bambi even appeared the day she passed away at the cottage and so her gentle spirit lives on. Green plants and especially ferns and palms are definitely a reminder of my mother, who to this day has over a thousand pots of plants in her garden, which I believe are all her children. I often think of her when I encounter a rare type of fern and wonder if she has it as part of her collection.

Then there's the red-tailed hawk that my husband is fond of, which he always seems to be able to spot during our walks. There is also my dear friend who passed away many years ago, and to this day, whenever I see a sunset on the horizon, it reminds me of our special times together on the California Coast.

Today is my father's 78th birthday and in honor of him and his spirit, I hiked to the top of Coyote Ridge Trail and Mt. Tamp here in Marin. Although he is halfway around the world, I celebrated his birthday thinking of him surrounded by nature. He has been a constant inspiration in my life when it comes to health, fitness and loving the outdoors. He would have liked this hike very much!

It's something that's close to my heart, but definitely one that you can relate to. It doesn't take much to observe and thrive in our natural beauty. Perhaps you'll reflect on the many associations you have with nature and your loved ones. We are so blessed to be given this gift.  May your days ahead be filled with many magical moments, the wonder of nature, the warmth of love and the adventure of life!

Wishing you life's very best in 2012!