At an elevation of 4,696 feet, Rabun Bald is the tallest mountain in Rabun County and the second-highest peak in Georgia. An observation tower on the summit provides views that extend for more than 100 miles. CONTRIBUTED BY CHARLES SEABROOK

A nature lover gives thanks on Thanksgiving

On Thanksgiving Day, we will pause to give thanks for life’s goodness. I’m thankful, of course, for family and friends, but, as a proud tree hugger, I’m especially grateful for:

• National parks, state parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, state wildlife management areas and other wild places where native flora and fauna can flourish.

• Dedicated park rangers, wildlife biologists, land managers and others who care for the wild places. Their devotion to natural beauty and preservation is much appreciated in the face of funding cutbacks that threaten to close some parks. Instead of fewer parks, we need more.

• Barrier islands and the grand, sweeping salt marshes that surround them. In addition to their exceptional beauty, the marshes serve as vital nurseries for shrimp, crabs, oysters and countless other marine creatures. They filter pollutants from water and protect the land from fierce storms at sea — and do it all for free.

• Great mountain vistas that lift the human spirit, such as the breathtaking views from Cloudland Canyon, Mount Yonah, Brasstown Bald, Rabun Bald and others.

• Georgia’s beautiful rivers: Altamaha, Ocmulgee, Ogeechee, Savannah, Chattahoochee, Flint, Satilla and others.

• A world so sweet and the birds that sing, from a simple prayer that many of us learn in childhood.

• A riot of wildflowers and nesting birds in spring; lush greenery and baby animals in summer; dazzling leaf color and ripening fruit in fall; silence and bare trees in winter — and all the other beauty of each season.

• Bees, wasps, flies, beetles, butterflies, bats, birds, ants — pollinators that help more than 80 per cent of the world’s flowering plants to reproduce.

• The turkey. What would Thanksgiving be without it?

IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: The moon will be new on Tuesday. Venus is very low in the west just after dark and sets soon afterward. Mars is low in the east just before dawn and appears near the moon Sunday morning. Jupiter is low in the southwest around dusk and sets shortly thereafter. Jupiter and Venus appear near the moon on Thursday. Saturn is low in the south just after dark and sets in the west about three hours after sunset; it appears near the moon on Friday.

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