Nature for the New Year
Wednesday, December 27, 2017
It’s time, once again, to turn the page.
The New Year is a symbolic thing. It’s an ancient idea; a ritualized way to hit the reset button, to refresh the screen. I suggest a walk in the woods.
I have a path I follow on Stewart Mountain, a winding route that goes nowhere in particular. I seek its counsel often—but, truth be told, not often enough. It’s not very long and it offers no stupendous views or unusual flora or fauna (although once I saw a family of mountain lions there). For the most part, it’s a nondescript dirt track through third-growth woods.
But it almost always quiets the jangling in my head, turning down the volume on the roiling pastiche of deadlines, obligations and current events. The constant search for solutions. A gnawing anxiety is slowly replaced by a sense of contentment and gratitude. It amazes me how easily and quickly this shift occurs sometimes.
Perhaps it’s the solitude. The ego is constrained by a lack of competition. Perhaps it’s the familiarity. In a world where the sheer velocity of change can be overwhelming, the reliability of fir and fern, rippling creek and mossy rock can be reassuring.
Surely the silence—or rather the subtle soundtrack of birdsong and wind in the trees—plays a major role. It can be hard to find your own song when constantly surrounded by the clamor of machines.
So here’s a New Year resolution for you: Unplug yourself as often as you can. Go for a walk and leave the damn phone at home. Sit under a tree in the rain.
Work up a sweat. Get your feet wet. Watch the clouds for an hour.
Long ago I was given some very valuable advice: If you find yourself with a problem that is 90 percent out of your control, focus on the 10 percent that isn’t. You may not be able to change the world, but you can actually change yourself, at least a little. Maybe find yourself to be part of something bigger than your day-to-day gyrations.
And, sure, we all have a responsibility to contribute, to be a part of the solution. Unplugging will make you a better citizen: more compassionate, more attentive, more fun. More aware, more in the moment.
I’ve heard it said that it’s impossible to make oneself happy. Perhaps the way it works is that we make other people happy and they in turn make us happy. Call it cosmic reciprocity. The implications of this are obvious and suggest a laying down of the burden of self-aggrandizement.
It’s good to travel light.
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