By Cyndi Hacker 

Here in the Hudson Valley, we are a little spoiled. We are used to beauty and color, and lots of it. Tourists come here in droves just to see our autumn leaves, and our bright, summer season isn’t too shabby, either. However, 2018 has been a little, shall we say, “on the grey side.” An elongated winter turned into a bright sunny, summer filled with promise. Then, something happened. After a gorgeous July 4th, we fell into a deep spell of grey—little bits of scattered sunshine overshadowed by rain, rain, more rain, and well, grey. Fall hasn’t been much different. The rain has essentially pulled the leaves off the trees early, leaving them to land in pools of water and mud, barely colored.  If you’re like me, this prolonged weather pattern has left you feeling a little grey. The rain has kept me indoors more and the lack of sun has me browsing Amazon for a Happy Lite. As weekend after weekend brings cold, wet weather, I’m even missing the tourists, a little.

Last Saturday I had enough. I needed outside. I didn’t care that it was cold, dark, rainy, and windy, I needed to be walked as badly as a restless labrador. I set out on my section of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, donned in my raincoat, rainboots, and scarf-hat-and-gloves combo, and tried to ignore the rain pelting my eyes. Then something happened. I began to notice the beauty in the grey. First, I was lured by the sound of water, as what was normally a small tributary of the Wallkill River now became a raging chorus of whitecaps and rapids. Trees lining the trail were a little bare, but on the ground was a carpet of leaves the color of a rainbow, and it seemed to glow against the backdrop of the foggy grey sky. It was mesmerizing! And what made it even more special was that I was alone. Who would be out here on a rainy, cold day? But it was beautiful. All the rain has made for lush green grass and I had never seen that creek so high and mighty. The water looked almost inviting, so clear and deep. I knew the small waterfall up a ways on the left of the trail would now be an impressive site to behold. I couldn’t wait to see.

I whipped out my cell phone and began taking pictures of the water, the trees, even the ground. I always wondered how people could take photos of leaves on ground and make them look good, but then my eyes caught how the leaves seemed to sparkle in the water, and the drops of rain created rings in between them in the most fascinating way. I found myself stopping, staring at the ground, waddling around taking photos of the ground, on a path I walked nearly every day. What had changed?

I invite you to check out the grey. Grey can be exciting. And there’s lots of it. Witness the joyful behavior of the grey squirrels, who are out there all day, in all kinds of weather, not only making their living, but, when one takes the time to notice, actually playing with one another. Then there are the grey and black chickadees that stay with us in the north, along with the mourning doves, who sing a beautiful song no matter what the sky brings. A dreary day can turn into a beautiful one if we just stop and look around a bit.

I’m glad I took the time to get out of the house that day. To look beyond my expectations of beauty. To change my perspective. To find beauty in the grey.
Cynthia Hacker lives in New Paltz, NY. She spends her free time exploring the many wild places that grace the area. She is a writer and lover of nature, and an environmentalist.