Watershed Notes: Thankful For Living In Western New York

Natural beauty surrounds us in Western New York. photo by Susan M. Songster-Weaver

Thanksgiving should be a time for reflection. Reflection on what we have in our lives that really matters. Besides our families and friends, what do you have that really matters? What are your blessings?

You are blessed if you have a roof over your head, food on the table and money for the bills. Too many people in our country are lacking one or more of these essentials. You are blessed if you have your health. Too many people do not. And, I believe you are blessed if you live in Western New York.

I can almost hear the negative comments to that statement. “Yeah, right. Blessed to be living here with freezing temperatures and snow on the ground? You have to be kidding!” I’m not. Western New York is a great place to live, even with its “warts.”

Snow on the ground? Count your blessings. A healthy snow pack recharges our ground water and can prevent droughts. Just look at California. They rely on the mountain snow, and without it, devastating drought conditions persist that lead to deadly wildfires. Have wildfires ever threatened Western New York?

Colder temperatures? Be thankful. Florida has been recording record high temperatures for the last three years. When I went down this October, the temps were in the 90s, and it never cooled off, even at night for nearly a month. You could be dripping with sweat by just stepping out your front door. Last week, temps finally dropped into the 50s and 60s at night, and everyone was relieved. People were out walking and biking with smiles on their faces. And, along with that oppressive heat, comes the storms.

We do get our share of storms in Western New Yrk. We have our blizzards that can shut down the roads and cities for days at a time, but we have never felt the full brunt of a hurricane rolling in off the ocean packing 100-plus mph winds and driving rain leveling everything in its path. Once the snow and wind let up, we crawl out of our houses and dig ourselves out. Houses are still standing. Cars that can be brushed off and driven away. When the snow settles, we are still intact. After a hurricane, you are lucky to be intact.

Our major inconveniences pale in comparison to what can happen to areas hit by wildfires and hurricanes. Snow storms can shut down our schools for one or two days. In those areas, the schools can be shut down indefinitely because they are no longer standing. Roads here might be closed until the plows clear them of snow. Their roads may be closed forever because they are washed away.

We live in a beautiful place. Western New York has fresh water lakes, lush green forests, meadows of green grass and hearty, friendly people. We have modern conveniences and up-to-date technology. We have stores and industry without the gridlock of huge cities. Our worst traffic jams are on Fairmount Avenue, Lakewood, near WalMart at Christmastime. It’s nothing compared to navigating the Beltway around Washington, D.C. during rush hour. We are within driving distance of major airports and cutting edge hospitals and universities.

We have lakes to swim in, fish and boat on close at hand. We have trails to hike and miles to bike. And, during the winter, we have top-notch skiing and snowmobiling nearby. We have it all here, if we stop and count our blessings.

I hope your Thanksgiving was full of fun, food and family. I hope you find the upcoming Christmas season and New Year a time of happiness and hope. Blessings to all.

See you outside.

Susan M. Songster Weaver is retired teacher, nature lover and longtime CWC volunteer and supporter.

The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. For more information, call 716-664-2166 or visit www.chautauquawatershed.org or www.facebook.com/chautauquawatershed.