Friday, November 25, 2016

Why Nature is So, So Important

As I write this, I'm listening to a 50-second recording I took of the sounds in the woods where I grew up. I made the recording yesterday, on Thanksgiving, as I sat silently beside the shallow creek, nestled on a rock under the ledge of a small, dry waterfall. The sky was November grey, and the air was hazy with moisture and sweet from the cold. 

There was a rustling in the bed of leaves among the rocks where I was sitting, and a mouse scurried up into a hole under the ledge, out of sight. Above me, birds traversed the interwoven layer of branches that crossed the canvas of sky like frozen black lightning. 

The waterfall was dry, as I said, but there was still enough moisture to drip periodically and patter down on the leaves. The birdsong was musical, soft, cold. 

Not everyone grew up in the country like I did, and not everyone enjoys it like I do. But in my opinion, nature is absolutely vital to our well-being. It was created for our enjoyment. It's our earth, to nurture and use and explore and bask in. And sometimes just stepping outside and sitting a while can change your entire day. 

Some of the best moments in life for me have been in nature - gazing up at a star-strewn sky on a cold night, letting the wind from a waterfall in Yosemite plow into me as I stand at the base of it, finding a rock to sit on in the woods where I can listen to the sounds around me and let my mind empty. 

It can cleanse you, emptying yourself to an audience of birds and trees and wind. It can reshape your soul in preparation of another week. It can remind you of what's really important in life, of what's really worth your time, of what we've been given to enjoy. 

So the next time you get a chance, take a hike. Swim in the creek. Walk around in the fog. Climb a tree. Spread out a blanket on the ground and get lost in the sky. Close your eyes, feel the breeze, empty your mind and focus on this simple truth: that life is beautiful, and we can be thankful for that. 

/ / / 

Where's a place that you like to get away in nature? Is there somewhere in nature that you've never been, and want to go visit? I'd love to hear about it! 


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Almost 19

Fine corral dust swirled through the air, stirred up by the horses’ hooves. Beneath me, my horse swayed at a gentle walk, accustomed to young riders. My friend, atop her own horse, circled past on the other side of the corral, our instructor turning slowly in the middle as she watched us both with a keen eye.

“How old are you girls?” she asked us.

Our birthdays fall within two months of each other, so we both answered, “Almost eight.”

Not seven.

Almost eight.

The instructor shook her head in her usual, terse way. Then she told us something that has stuck with me for over a decade now.

“No, you’re not almost eight. You’re seven,” she said. “And you’ll never be seven again.”

Fast forward twelve years, and I’m almost nineteen.

But for the moment, as I post this, I’m still eighteen.

Tomorrow I turn nineteen, which is one year away from leaving the teens fully behind, forever. Tomorrow I turn nineteen, that bridge between the awkwardness of sudden legal adulthood at eighteen and the rocky stage of the twenties, when you’re supposed to have figured the adulting thing out (right). Tomorrow I turn nineteen, and I’ll wave goodbye to eighteen for good.

Nineteen feels a bit surreal, I’ll have to get used to it; it also seems full of possibilities, though.

But leaving eighteen behind forever?

The truth is, we can’t stop time’s advance. Many of us (and I speak for myself) want to rush through so many parts of our lives – the rough teen years, the hardships, the struggles – because we think the next year will hold something better. It’s the human condition that we rush, rush, rush through everything, good and bad, until something jerks our feet out from under us and we have to stop and sit.

And be still.

Even if it’s just for a minute.

Tonight, I want to take a moment to be still and enjoy the last few hours of eighteen, a temporary but precious gift I’ve been given for three-hundred-sixty-five days. Eighteen tested me and grew me, shaped me a little more into the person I was created to become.

So for now, I’m just eighteen.

It may change tomorrow, but that’s okay; I’ll take the next gift – nineteen – and cherish it too.

Here's to looking ahead, but sitting and resting in the now. 

Have you ever found yourself wanting to rush into the next step in life? Or have you discovered that sometimes it's better to enjoy each stage while you're living it?