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.
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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!