Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. – Rachel Carson
For the past three weekends, Kendra and I have been going to a newcomers class at church. (After a long search for a religious community, we decided upon a local Unitarian church, and have been engaged in becoming members.) Today the Reverend opened the class by asking us to name a personal source of strength. Like many of the people there, I said that my wife is my emotional rock – she adds balance to my life. Many of the other responses were in a similar vein – children, parents, husbands, etc. Yet one answer that caught my attention was nature. The more I thought about it, the more I realized just how much nature has become one of my own sources of strengths during the past decade.
As a child growing up in an urban city, though I spent a great deal of time outside, I was rarely in an environment one would call “nature.” The closest I ever seemed to get to communing with Mother Nature was by climbing in the tree next to my house. There were a few stints at Girl Scout camp, but even then we spent more time making crafts than hiking or camping. My first “real” camping trip was the summer after I graduated from college. I was competing in a rowing race in Connecticut, and my teammates Carrie and Sarah came with me for moral support. As recent college grads, we were understandably broke, and Sarah suggested instead of getting a hotel we should camp. So we did, and had a great time. Soon after, I moved to Boston, and quickly forgot about camping as I eased back into a familiar urban environment.
Kendra has spent her entire life camping and hiking. It took her a year to convince me to go camping with her. I finally gave in, and was determined to have a miserable time in the dirt-laden, mosquito-infested environment overridden with scary wildlife. Despite my best attempts, I fell in love with camping.
Since then, I have found myself craving time in the woods, under the stars, hiking up mountains, and exploring National Parks. In this fast paced world, the outdoors are a place for me to clear my head and escape from the demands of urban life. I trade my iPhone for books, string my hammock between two trees, and enjoy the peaceful sounds of nature, uninterrupted by traffic, text messages, or work. When we camped cross-country this past summer, time seemed to creep by. As life slowed down, I felt my body and mind begin to recharge. This fall, I began the school year feeling the most rested and energetic of my entire career.
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. – John Muir
At just 18 months, Addie has accompanied us on myriad hikes, camping trips, and outdoor adventures. She has slept in a tent, ridden on my back while we have climbed mountains and sand dunes, and been lulled to sleep by gentle breezes and the sounds of the nighttime. She has hiked up small hills, carefully climbing over tree roots on her way. She delights in hiking in the woods almost as much as playing in the mud of a stream.
My hope is to imbue in her a love for nature, and an appreciation for the emotional and mental rejuvenation that can be found outdoors. In difficult times, going for a hike can clear the mind, and help garner the strength you need to tackle the obstacles of life.