Mother Nature and I have always had what you might refer to as a "love-hate" relationship.
In simpler terms, she seems to love to dole out weather that I hate.
On average, there are about 17 days — out of approximately 365 — in any given year during which I consider the weather to be a treat. And, that's an estimate on the high end.
Most folks have an "ideal temperature range," in which they're what they would consider comfortable.
I would venture to guess that the majority of folks fall within 10-15 degrees of comfortability — my range is about 2 degrees.
When it is somewhere between 65 and 67, I'm fairly comfortable (these are my comfortable high temperatures).
Anything above that during the heat of the day, and the air conditioning units in the stores and office buildings just don't keep up when it comes to cooling me.
On the low end, I like it to dip down to about 48 to 50 degrees at night.
That way, nothing on my body is freezing, but I can comfortably exist in a pair of shorts and a hoodie — not requiring any handheld fans or heating devices to keep me stable.
Of course, all of these ideal temps are without taking humidity into account.
In Western Pennsylvania, that is, of course, never an option.
My ideal humidity — zero percent. Anything else outside of this range is simply unacceptable.
It is with this relationship history always fresh in my mind that I had to choose, recently on two separate occasions, to begin making amends with Mother Nature.
It started about two weeks back, as I stood at the foot of the Canadian Rocky Mountains during a visit with my brother and his family.
Standing at the foot of these mountains is enough to put anyone in a state of awe — in fact, the euphoria I spoke of in last week's column hits home here.
I was truly amazed at what Mother Nature was offering in this treat, yet I wasn't ready to give her credit for that.
It was just last weekend — another long weekend — when I stood on the inlet of a massive lake in a state park in Ohio — of all places — that I decided it was time to give the same Mother Nature I've bickered so harshly with over my 31ish years some due credit.
She — in case you're wondering, I consider her a part of the triune God I worship, who hand-crafted this spectacular world we live in and not a separate entity to it — had made all of this as an offering to us, an offering we so easily can overlook.
Spending that time in the Rockies, we started to see the phenomenon that we are so familiar with here begin to take place in the turning of the leaves to more fall-esque colors.
The beauty of the turning of the leaves is just one of the so many
incredible gifts this Mother Nature presents to us.
She turns out so much and is responsible for so much, yet we — I, at least — give her responsibility for only the negatives too often.
As a photographer, I owe her all the more.
I've always said that the key to being a good photographer is being in the right place and pushing the button at just the right time.
The beauty of the landscapes she lays out for us, though, is that there are so many right places and so many right times.
It makes my "job" of capturing the beauty of these offerings easier. Still, many do it better than I do.
I took many photos on my inaugural trip into Canada's Rockies. Viewing them in black and white, you're missing part of the beauty, but sometimes I think it's important to take in just what this world is offering us in black and white. Sometimes, we interact so well with colors that we miss the picture behind them.
Standing on the shore of that algae-filled lake in Ohio, I took yet another picture — this time with my cellphone, having left my camera at home — of the view I had. That photo now adorns the "wallpaper" portion of my cell.
In the Rockies and on the shore of that lake, I stood in awe of the creation and the many offerings it has made to us all.
Now, as I look out the window of my study, I can see specks of yellow beginning to make their way into the green landscape that lays out through the valley.
Fall is nearly upon us, and with it will come even more pictures — whether they be on my camera or in my memory — of the beauty this world has to offer.
It's almost as if, all along, Mother Nature's been extending an olive branch in hopes I would take it as a peace offering.
"Here, Zak. I know my weather doesn't always suit you, but check this out," I can hear her say.
My reply: "It's beautiful, and thank you."
May our eyes be opened to the heart-warming offerings around us
this and every day, but especially in this fall season.
Zak Lantz is the editor of The Punxsutawney Spirit and a lover of all things fall.