With finals coming up next week, it’s been more and more difficult for me to escape from campus and have some good outdoor adventures. So two weeks ago, I decided to take a “nature walk” through campus to appreciate all the nature we have right here at Stanford. Although it is very far from true wilderness, Stanford does have lots of trees, gardens, groves, and meadows to enjoy. Our campus is very big, but I still chose to walk instead of biking around. This gave me an opportunity to stop and smell the roses in a very literal way, and to have time to notice the small details and really appreciate everything around me.  At first, I began by simply looking up and noticing how the light streamed in through the trees:

As I continued to walk, I started to notice the little things, and focus on the details of the plants, animals, sights, and sounds that I was experiencing:

Since I was taking my time and focusing on my surroundings, I also saw some animals that I might not have noticed had I been in a hurry or racing past:

One of the first places I visited on my nature walk was the meadows and eucalyptus groves surrounding Palm Drive, near the Bing Concert Hall. What amazed me about this place was how beautiful and intricate the small flowers, grasses, and even weeds were. I even lied down on the ground to get a few close-ups of them. Here are some pictures (click on each to zoom in):

Next, I visited Stanford’s Arizona Garden, also known as the Cactus Garden. It was hard to believe that in my year and a half at Stanford, I had never visited this beautiful place! I was absolutely blown away by the immense variety of plants there, and the whole garden was teeming with life. Who knew there were so many different types of cacti. I zoomed in to show the amazing details of these plants, but was careful not to get too close!

The next stop was the Papua New Guinea Sculpture Garden, which is located next to Roble Hall. I love this place, and I am always amazed by how well the artistry of the totem poles blends in with the surrounding forest:

Next, I visited Lagunita, which is Stanford’s lake. Except if you’ve ever been there, you will remember that it’s not actually a lake. It used to be, but then it was emptied in order to help a local endangered salamander species. They were migrating from the nearby San Francisquito Creek to Lagunita, and were crossing a big highway and occasionally getting hit by cars in the process. By emptying the lake, we thought that the salamanders would stop coming across the highway. Unfortunately, a few salamanders still get confused when there’s a big rainstorm and the lake gets a bit of water in it, so they still try to cross the highway. There are several groups at Stanford that help them cross by carrying them over the highway in these circumstances (Terry Root is a Stanford professor that coordinates many of these efforts). When I visited the lake, there was a tiny bit of water in the very bottom due to the recent rain, and I enjoyed coming right up to the waters edge and taking photos:

Not only was my nature walk a great way to take a study break in this hectic time of the quarter; it was also a wonderful opportunity to notice the abundance of life around me. When we are caught up in our everyday lives, busy schedules, and countless commitments, it is so easy to forget to stop and breathe every once in a while. Taking even just a moment, or in my case a few hours, to notice the little things and observe the natural world around you is so important. It’s a beautiful and exciting world out there, and it’s much bigger than a homework assignment or a test. Nature is all around us, and it can help us pause, be in the present moment, and gain perspective. All we have to do is notice it.