Nature As Sanctuary

When I think of time spent outdoors, the words that come to mind involve peace and solitude. As I have aged, I have come to recognize the outdoors as a place to seek spirituality and a connection to my own self.

The human spirit and heart need places that have not been altered by human progress. We need places where the only expectation is that we breathe.

Go to the forest. Walk until you can hear no more car engines or people talking. Plant your feet upon the ground and stand tall and with confidence like a rooted tree.

Close your eyes and breathe in and out slowly. Feel your blood pressure lower. Now open your eyes and lift your face toward the heavens. Watch as the wind rustles through the leaves above. Listen for the mighty bullfrog, the delicate cricket and the rhythmic woodpecker in the distance.

Listen. Look. Breathe. Repeat.

Study your surroundings and the way the light hits a hillside, transforming one patch of vegetation into something lovely, bright and vibrant in contrast to the other side of the hill which remains dark and mysterious.

Look down and notice the pebbles and dirt beneath your feet. Study the stray leaves and bird feathers along your path.

Do this enough and you will understand that you are traveling a path that is designed just for you. Not the one the world tries to tell you is right or that you imagined for yourself.

Your path, your peace, your soul.

People need natural spaces. People need the quiet of the forest. People need the bubbling rhythm of a stream to wash away their worries. People need clean air to cleanse their minds.

You need these things.

Trust me when I say that the stress, grief or other difficulties you face won’t magically go away just because you stand in the woods. However, your ability to cope and to face the challenges of your life will be infinitely improved when you spend time in nature.

Some people go into the woods to get lost. Personally, I go to find myself. I feel more like me when I spend time with nature.

It’s like a good workout, therapy and church service rolled into one. Don’t believe me? Go to the woods and find out for yourself.

People, Flowers And The Flaws We Share

Most of the spring flowers at Franklin Park are spent but there remain a few patches here and there. I scurried across the way to get a closer look at this cluster.

It looks nice enough from a distance. The colors remain vibrant and the flowers stand up straight.

But look a little closer. Most are starting to wilt and look a little rough around the edges. They will be gone in a matter of days.

It’s a natural process, the fading of spring bulbs. The petals will drop and the leaves will brown before dying back. These bulbs will lie dormant beneath the ground for the next three seasons before they begin to push through the earth into the sunshine where they will bloom, starting the process again.

Their lifecycle is ruled by the seasons. It’s an elegant, complex process that we take for granted.

I walked away a little disappointed but thinking about how much these flowers have in common with the average human.

The average person looks fine from a distance. They appear to move through their day, doing what they need to do and to be ok. It’s when you take a closer look and get to know them better that you notice the cracks in the veneer, the flaws.

Stick around very long and you’ll notice that almost every person has insecurities, quirks, anxieties and annoying habits they have developed through the seasons of their life.

We all are changed by what happens around us and by what happens to us. Sometimes we are made stronger, smarter, more resilient. Sometimes we are irreversibly damaged or broken.

These flaws are often harmless but can be destructive both internally and to other people around. We become tired, impatient, scared and vulnerable. We lash out, shut down or simply walk away.

While humans experience seasons of life the same as those spring flowers, we don’t have the luxury of receding into the ground to rest and recharge. We can recede into the darkness – both the literal of our homes and the figurative of our minds. Tragically, we tend to judge or worry when we see someone doing that.

If only we were more forgiving of ourselves and others as we cycle through difficult seasons or find ourselves stuck in a place that is unhealthy. I hate to say it but the flaws are often what make us interesting. Many have hard earned emotional scars, remnants of trauma that have helped shape us into who we are. As I grow older, I’m more conscious of my own and am more likely to own them now than ten years ago. I am proud of my resilience and that I have chosen this path.

If you are struggling for some reason, give yourself some grace. Don’t deny yourself something you want or a future you deserve because of your weaknesses. Weather this season, no matter how long it may be, allow your mind to rest, and trust that you’ll have the opportunity to grow again if you want to try.

Let’s face it. Life would be easier if we were flowers.

When You Get Tired

When you get tired, learn to rest, not quit. I read this statement somewhere once and it really resonated.

I’m in a place right now that I badly need the reminder. Balancing everything everywhere is starting to resemble a plate spinning act on the Ed Sullivan Show. Forgive me while I regroup, rest when necessary and try to get back into a consistent writing schedule.

Meanwhile, here’s a picture of Scout practicing what I preach. He very wisely never misses a nap!

Sunday

Franklin Park Conservatory.

Sunday is a day to recharge, to reset intentions, to ready for the week and to rest. There will be chores today, small things that I’ll do to prepare for the week ahead. That amounts to laundry, a little food prep and some tidying around the house.

However, my most important project will be resting my body and recharging my mind for another busy week ahead. I hope to read, to do some writing and to maybe hit the sack a little early.

This is part of my weekly routine which I value and guard because it’s essential to my well being for the next six days. It’s not quite a day of rest but it is a day of doing what’s good for me.

We all need that sometimes. We must seize the opportunity to protect our most valuable assets – our body, mind and soul. Have a peaceful Sunday and be kind to yourself.

Relax

Turn off the news. Put down your work. Step away from all the worry.

Go outside. Breathe fresh air. Walk through the woods. Feel dirt beneath your feet. Find something beautiful to enjoy.

Relax. The burdens of the world are not yours to carry. It’s Saturday. Give yourself a break and try to be happy.

There’s Always January 1

The grocery store was nuts yesterday.

We’re talking lines so long it was difficult to find the end. Most people seemed polite and happy to wait their turn which was good because there were just two cashiers. The self checkout line was also long as people were buying carts full of groceries and most of us civilians aren’t nearly as efficient as the average cashier/bagger combo.

My cashier was a young man, perhaps college aged, who indicated it had been a zoo all afternoon. When I asked why, we talked about the impending holiday and he said something truly profound. “People get all uptight and rude around Christmas but it seems like people try harder around New Years. They are gonna eat better or do things to reinvent themselves. Everyone tries to be a better person around New Years.”

He’s absolutely right.

Personally, I believe every day is an opportunity for a fresh start. Waiting till January to start doing better seems silly to me but I do understand the appeal of that fresh slate provided by a new year.

That said, I have been plotting some improvements in my own life and have a handful of goals to work on in the first quarter of this year.

My only wish is that everyone would always try a little harder to be better people. After all, it was refreshing to see people getting along and to hear the friendly, casual conversations among strangers. The lady in line behind me even offered to watch my cart while I ran for a gift card.

Speaking of nice people, I had superb lunch service at Los Mariachis and encountered a super kind employee at Lowe’s who helped me locate something I would have never found on my own. The picture above represents my favorite purchase of the day – this vintage style light up ceramic snowman. He was 75 percent off and a conversation starter everywhere I went in the store.

By the way, one of my goals for the next few months is to curb spending by doing a No Spend Challenge. Sigh. I guess I’ll be starting January 1!