The Elsifor family, one branch or another, has lived in Ann Arbor for four or more generations, but I have lived here for only eight years. When I moved here there was a lot going on in my life that wasn’t good so I didn’t see anything good, but in time things changed. There are a lot of things in Ann Arbor I have grown to appreciate and look forward to throughout the year. And at the top of that list is Ann Arbor’s collection of parks.

I may have explored only half of them, but I have found something in every one that brings a smile to my lips and gladness to my heart. In Ann Arbor’s parks, my passion for photography has gotten a workout, and I’ve even sold some pictures. And I’ve fallen in love with nature more than once.

I first found my passion for exploring at Mary Beth Doyle Park when I lived off Stone School Rd. Half a dozen trails weave through the woods south of the creek. My favorite comes to a bridge where I often stood to admire Malletts Creek on its way to the Huron River. Though it’s a dense residential neighborhood, I was surrounded by the sounds of slapping water, wind in branches, the chattering of small animals, and the rare splash of a fish leaning, it seemed only to show off. The hummingbirds and butterflies were too fast for my little Canon camera, but amazing to watch.

Wondering how much I had missed, not only in Ann Arbor but in the world, I began to explore many of the city’s parks. I followed a family of deer through Delhi Metropark. I learned that I could still make a good attempt to climb a pretty steep hill. I found more parks to explore and even longer walks. My doctors didn’t approve, but I did it anyway—I was in love.

I found my way to Gallup Park, where I found more water to sit by and dream the forgotten dreams of my childhood. I took my favorite picture—which became a poster—of turtles sunning themselves on a log in the river as I made my way toward an unexpected vista of Huron High School. In the other direction I took the path to the county’s Parker Mill Park and ventured down both of its trails and across the road to a nature center that looked like something out of Fred Flintstone.

I’ve only just begun to explore Ann Arbor’s parks, and as a survivor of cancer I may never get the chance to see them all. But Ann Arbor’s parks have healed me before, and it may be that they’ll do so again.