Above / Buddy up for a stroll along the Riverwalk. Look up in the treetops for the letter “A” and begin a fun, relaxing way to spend a late autumn day trying to find all the letters of the alphabet in clear view. Winter arrives on Dec. 21. (PN File Photo)
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, aka NASA, always reminds us when the winter solstice begins in the United States. For 2023, the seasonal event will take place in the morning hours of Thurs., Dec. 21. That date also will be the shortest day of the year in Naperville, Illinois, with approximately nine hours, seven minutes and 44 seconds of daylight.
Find reasons to look up when days get shorter
For as long as we can remember, whenever we’ve explored local parks to experience the changing season, we’ve often paused to observe the magnificent structure of the wide variety of trees that erupt into spectacular bursts of red, orange and gold in autumn. Then almost as quickly as their leaves begin littering the walks in brown heaps that can be slippery when wet or crunchy underfoot, most trees stand naked to display strength and structural beauty that welcome attention throughout the natural landscape.
Certainly the Naperville Riverwalk has an abundance of mature trees such as the attractive poplar or cottonwood pictured here six years ago, located at the base of Rotary Hill behind Moser Tower. This tall common variety along the Riverwalk is distinguished by ash gray, very thick and rough bark, with long, deep ridges. Also note its long, thick branches. Seems like just yesterday its golden triangular-shaped and toothed single leaves had begun falling. If only trees could talk about all the changes they’ve witnessed over the last several hundred years along the DuPage River.
Most recently, in mid-November the trees near the old Netzley House by the foot bridge over the DuPage River witnessed landscaping work coordinated by the Naperville Park District that cleared the way for a new view of Moser Tower.
At any rate —though at a pace less lively than usual — during those slow walks with camera in hand, we often look for letters of the alphabet as they appear in the treetops and in nature.
Several years ago, we began with “A” for an autumn adventure. And before we knew it, we’d found many other letters as well as peace in our search from the Riverwalk to May Watts Park to Knoch Knolls.
Let there be peace…
PN’s graphic designer, Tim Penick, turned the images into colorful letters that have graced the pages of our publication through the years. Find some of them in the centerfold of the December 2023 publication.
More than a couple times, we’ve used the letters for “P E A C E,” a theme for the holiday season.
It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see. —Henry David Thoreau
Some letters with curves require using your imagination more than others. If you’re unable to find the letter “S” in the treetops, perhaps use the neck of a great blue heron, commonly found along the shoreline of local neighborhood ponds as well as the DuPage River.
And if you need an “O,” look on the ground for an Osage orange or a black walnut.
But wait! At the west end of Centennial Beach by the fence is a mature tree with a big old “S” that suddenly appeared.
Think about it. Walking outdoors among nature is an inexpensive and accessible form of exercise that’s known to be good to relieve stress. It’s good for the youngsters in your life, too. Many studies tout that a host of physical, mood and health benefits accompany walking outdoors, whether fast-paced or slow.
SO… get moving if you can. Take someone with you. Take your imagination. And take a walk!
Enjoy the ever-changing holiday season with good health and happiness. Celebrate safely. —PN
Last Updated, Dec. 6, 2023