I rustle around to find my jacket and sneakers. I may throw some binoculars, bug spray and a guide book in a bag with my sketchbook and camera, but mostly I am anxious to just go and I usually forget something. It doesn’t matter.
Depending on the day and how much time I have I either head for the beach, the woods or a path I know that circles a pond and then leads through a field. I go alone or with the dog but mostly I like to go alone. I take no music, no book, no friend to talk with. I want to hear the birds, the chipmunks, the wind through the trees. I want to hear my own thoughts as they slow down and respond to the open space and fresh air. For me, a day I can’t get out and walk in nature is a dark day, a day I feel like a lioness in a cage pacing back and forth with anxiety. I go out even in the rain and howling wind. I slog through snow and slush and slip around on icy pathways. I need this time without a roof over my head, walls to hold me in and floors that keep my feet separated from the earth. I need to reconnect with the earth daily.
I am not a psychologist or a doctor but I think a lot of the things that ail us personally and as a culture could be healed by going outside more. Nature is who and what we are in our bodies. Nature is in our bones and our blood, our senses and our skin. Nature is in the fear that raises the hair on the back of our heads and the giddiness of first attractions to lovers and friends. Being outside is our heritage and yet many people spend most of their time indoors. I believe that hearing the birds sing, watching a baby rabbit nibble on clover and following a nectar seeking butterfly through a field of flowers is good for our souls. Feeling the soft breeze on our skin or the bracing wind off the sea on our faces may be better for curing depression than any tiny pill. It reminds us constantly that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves.
Don’t get me wrong, I like central heat, indoor plumbing and other conveniences of modern life as well as anyone but when I need a mental or spiritual realignment, which is just about every day, that walk in woods or along the shore is what centers me, brings me back to my real self.
For me there is hope in every plant that pushes through the warming soil, faith in every bird that builds a nest and lays an egg. There is no waste in a world so well designed that everything that dies is made use of to keep something else alive. There is sense here, logic in the interconnectivity of life cycles, but there is whimsy too. Why else would there be hummingbirds or spouting whales?
As I plan my day I look out the window and wonder what the day will really bring. My plans are just an outline and mostly I will respond to events and the plans of others around me for as a freelancer and a grandmother, my work is often dependent on the whims and needs of others. My day can be scattered, my mind can be too. I need this daily time to pull my thoughts together. It is my meditation, my exercise, my prayer all built into one walk in the wild.
Today looks like a beach walking day and as I go to find my sneakers I find they are still filled with sand from yesterday’s walk which makes me smile. Soon I will be able to walk barefoot but today it is still cool and damp. There is a fog creeping in from the shore so I know the landscape will be blurry, the horizon between land impossible to see. The gulls and terns will be calling and the hum of small boats going clamming or lobstering will probably be there too. What else will I see, hear or feel? I have no idea.
I just know that it will be wonderful and it will make my day.