The Chattanooga Nature Center is the best club in town. We gladly pay a meager $65 for seven-day access to this picturesque place with miles of trails and a creek running right through it.
There are lots of benefits I don’t really know about, but what I do take advantage of is the bird of prey show (incredible!), the native plant sales (lots of important plants for our pollinators and wildlife) and the fact that I can find out anything I need to know about wild animals or poisonous snakes. And I take my (leashed) dog there regularly for a long walk.
As a general rule, my husband got most mileage out of our membership when he worked right around the corner. His office used to be about three minutes away, and unless it was driving icy shards of rain, he rode his bike at lunchtime for exercise. It was a win-win; no matter how stressed out and wrought up he was at the office, he felt the tension melt every day as soon as he took the bike off the rack and coasted through the wooded parking lot to the gravel road.
My husband looked forward to the heron that seemed to wait on him just around the bend of the creek; it took off almost lazily as soon as the tires on the bike crunched, flapping its wings as its legs grazed the water.
One look at the horses grazing in the rolling fields with Lookout Mountain behind them is enough to set the most clenched jaw at ease, but combine that with the vistas that follow, from pasture after pasture bursting with bright yellow coreopsis and towering deep purple ironweed in fall to a creek gurgling along a wooded path year-round, and the most intense eye twitch and furrowed forehead would go limp. Better than Botox, a loop around the perimeter of Reflection Riding can take years off your face.
This place is an arboretum, with hundreds of plant species labeled with common and botanical names. So when I wondered about the masses of bright red berries on a leafless shrub, I immediately realized it was winterberry, Ilex verticillata, a native species that is popular with birds.
Although I have yet to take advantage of the guided forest bathing walks or the Wild Wednesdays or the tree house overnights or paddling trips, I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of this club. What would I pay to have access to a healing, restorative spot I can wander through any time of the day, and wonder at its vast and remarkable beauty?
Really, if I spent a few more afternoons at the Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center, I might not even be a candidate for Botox.
(Ferris Robinson is the author of two children's books, "The Queen Who Banished Bugs" and "The Queen Who Accidentally Banished Birds," in her pollinator series, with "Call Me Arthropod" coming soon. "Making Arrangements" is her first novel, and "Dogs and Love - Stories of Fidelity" is a collection of true tales about man's best friend. Her website is ferrisrobinson.com. She is the editor of The Lookout Mountain Mirror and The Signal Mountain Mirror. Ferris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org )