Well, I’ve officially been back in the States for 10 days. I’m holding off on writing a “coming back” post because I don’t think I’ve completely processed everything that’s happened in the last four months, and honestly, I don’t know if I ever will. The past ten days have been a little crazy–I’ve applied for jobs, been to interviews, been hired, filled out paperwork, hugged about a thousand people, watched my sister and two good friends graduate, and about a billion other things. They’ve been really good, though, and I think home is the place I’m supposed to be this summer.

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starting a new adventure

I think being away for a semester really allowed me to appreciate how beautiful Oklahoma really is. There are no large thousand-year-old churches or grand works of Renaissance art, but there are beautiful plains with thousands of wildflowers and forests full of squirrels and singing birds. There are museums and parks and nature preserves that capture the unique beauty that can only be found in Oklahoma. This summer, I hope to visit these places and write about them as a way to remind myself that each part of the world is worthy of being noticed, not just those that are far away or exotic.

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Today I visited Redbud Valley Nature Preserve with my mom and sisters. It’s an area of land that has been untouched, preserved as a habitat for native Oklahoma birds, mammals, flowers, and other wildlife, a place to see what the land looked like before industrialization.

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There’s a sign at the entrance to the park that instructs visitors to “hike, daydream, bird watch, visit with a naturalist, sketch, photograph butterflies, relax, study the wildflowers, forget things, look for fossils, remember things, sit, stare, listen… do all these things and more. There are a multitude of possibilities – invent some of your own.” It’s the perfect place to take a break from reality and just be for awhile.

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The cool part about Redbud Valley is that it is home to several diverse ecosystems. One trail winds through a forest, another leads through a grassland prairie, and a third requires climbing through a bluff trail: three different homes for many different kinds of plants and animals. The forest trail is perfect on hotter days because the trees provide shade from the sun, while the bluff trail is better for rainy days because the overhanging rocks provide shelter (the rocks do get a little slippery, though, so make sure to be careful!).

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It’s always fun to go with other people and just enjoy the scenery and each others’ company. More eyes also mean more opportunities to spot cool bugs and animals! If you’re near Catoosa, Oklahoma and find yourself wanting to escape from city or suburban life, you should definitely drive down to Redbud Valley for a day. It’s open Wednesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is completely free to the public. You should take advantage of this hidden treasure and experience some of the beauty Oklahoma has to offer!

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