Summer is dwindling and schedules are busier than ever. Are you taking time to refresh and renew yourself with nature breaks?
I recently went on a day trip to Mt. St. Helens. Born and raised in Oregon, I remember going there at one point as a kid with my family, but never as an adult. It’s a perfect daytrip destination from Portland, and it’s rare to experience a landscape as young as it; only 32 years old.
It was Sunday. I loaded a backpack and headed out with my 11 year old dog. I scoped a trail on the southern side of the mountain and got a later start than planned. This meant a shorter hike, but it turns out my aging dog couldn’t manage much more than about 5 miles round-trip, anyway.
Having to slow down for my dog, I was allowed to take in more of the natural beauty surrounding me. Sometimes I make a point of getting out, but I forget to really experience what places have to offer. After an hour of immersion in the woods, I really began to acclimatize and notice things. I began to recognize plants with which I’m not familiar. I became aware of changes in the micro-climates and ecosystems through which I was passing. Several times along the hike, I realized when I could smell water or moisture, or if the soil composition changed. My attention turned toward sounds and whether it was created by wildlife or weather. If I stopped to enjoy the view, I couldn’t ignore the annoying insects which rushed to enjoy my hard-earned sweat. I was even tempted to eat some of the huckleberries along the way.
I ended up hiking for about 4 hours, and it really did take at least the first hour to completely relax into the environment. I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunities I have to get away from the city for these retreats of renewal. Not everyone has these opportunities, and sometimes those of us who do still have long waits between these trips. During those long waits, I encourage you to find smaller ways to do the same thing in your immediate environment.
Find the natural beauty in your everyday life. Heighten your awareness by paying attention to your natural surroundings. You’ll find yourself living happier and healthier!