Laurel and I just arrived home from a walk in the park. Muddy pants and red noses. The highlight of this walk was seeing two goldfish in the little pond, or perhaps walking up a "mountain" (according to Laurel). We didn't walk very far, or go anywhere new. However, if you spend time in the woods, you know a tree never looks the same way twice...the sunlight or cloud cover, time of day, and season always give you a new perspective.

I'm reading Richard Louv's the Nature Principle right now. While his last book focused more on how exposure to nature impacts children, this book talks a lot about mental health in adults. Or lack thereof.

I can give you a lot of reasons why I hate my job. But one I hadn't thought of before is that I spend almost 8 hours a day in windowless classrooms. Last month I was prescribed a diet by my acupuncturist, and in addition to what to eat or avoid, there was the instruction to eat mindfully. Do nothing else during meals, except chew. If you are a teacher, you know the temptation is strong to work through lunch. I'm sure it's that way in a lot of professions. But I started to take my lunch (of gluten-free grains and roasted root vegetables. yum.) to the teacher work center, plop down in front of the windows and just stare at the woods on the other side of the tennis courts. Seeing natural light, and trees and birds, and observing the weather is probably as therapeutic as chewing slowly.

This simple action was jolting to me because I hadn't realized just how removed I had become from the outdoors.

Louv doesn't say that we all need to move to the country in order to have exposure to nature. Our proximity to a large urban park is good enough - if we actually get out there. Laurel walking almost a mile to daycare everyday puts her in a better position than a lot of kids...think of how many kids don't even really know the discomfort of rain or cold, because they are ushered between home and school and activities in a climate-controlled vehicle and spend only moments of their day exposed to the elements.

I've learned this lesson before. It was only after hiking about a hundred miles or so of the Appalachian Trail that I felt the first effects of living outdoors and spending a lot of time hearing - not quiet - but the more subtle sounds of nature. After a thousand miles of hiking I felt grounded and accepting of my place in the world. After two thousand, I could not imagine living any other way.

It's a lesson I'm relearning now.


Anonymous said...

Once one has hiked the AT everything in life seems to connect back to it.

Beach Bum

k said...

This morning, when we were eating breakfast, we talked about when we would hike the AT with our daughter Laurel. She's 2 right now, so it's probably a few years off, but you are so right, Beach Bum...the AT somehow became "home" to me while we were hiking, and it still feels that way.