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This last year gave me so many reasons to give thanks

The year 2012 has flown by at a blistering pace. Before we know it, the last page of the year will flip towards a wide-open 2013. This is the traditional time for us as Americans to sit back and be thankful for what has been blessed upon us. As we reach back and replay the past months it can be sometimes hard to find the blessings. Even amongst the darkest times though, it is the little things that shine the brightest.

I am thankful for friends and family. Living in a small community allows us to recognize each other as we go about our day. Rarely does a trip to the store end without a nod, hello, or longer conversation with someone we care about. That surely is a blessing.

I am thankful for the fall colors we all shared these past weeks. As hard as a drought-ridden summer can be, the spectacular showcase played before us on oaks, maples, and numerous other species of trees was hard not to enjoy. How can anyone see the golden canvas of fall and not recognize that God himself is responsible for such a creation?

As we rush headlong into nature’s coldest season, I am still thankful for crisp mornings that remind me that, yes, I still am alive. When old man winter is dressed in his best, frosted suit the entire landscape transforms into something spectacular.

I am so thankful for men and women who love the outdoors and practice conservation and management of our resources. Their efforts have seen remarkable stories of species on the comeback. How long until we see the mighty elk roaming across the Prairie State once again? Time will tell.

This past year has seen a love for the outdoors blossom in my two boys. Their active participation and enjoyment of what I am so passionate about means that someday they too might pass the torch to their children. That is a lot to be thankful for.

Several hundred years ago, the religiously persecuted Pilgrims had the courage to set forth on an adventure that would take them to a new land. A land of untold bounty that not only got them through their first winter, but continues to sustain each of us from one generation to the next. Our farmers that still reap the rewards of world-class soil are people that we all need to be thankful for.

I am thankful to live in a nation that still values hard work, perseverance, and encourages us to dream big. Those dreams might range from catching your first ten-pound bass to owning your own piece of land. Those things are all possible here and that is yet another blessing we all enjoy.

I am thankful for that darn squirrel that torments me each and every time I sit in my deer stand. Countless times he fools me into thinking that he is a world-class buck as he crunches through the dry leaves, letting my mind to play tricks on me. He also entertains me for hours on end as he goes about his routine and gets into spats with his neighbors over a juicy acorn. How can I not be thankful for the peaceful rivers and streams that yield heavy catches of smallmouth bass? Many an angler travels to exotic locales far north of here in pursuit of fat bronzebacks, yet tucked away, in rarely talked about waters, live fish of equal fight, length, and weight. 

The list for each of us is different. Our blessings fall into order and cover a wide range of topics, desires, and expectations. The quantity and quality of what we are thankful for though is dependent on our own ability to accept what we have been given.

A friend of mine tags her emails with this quote from Albert Einstein, “There are only two ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is though everything is a miracle.” I think that the ability for each of us to make that choice is definitely something to be thankful for.

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoy the miracle that is the outdoors!

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