“September 2. One is constantly reminded of the infinite lavishness and fertility of Nature -- inexhaustible abundance amid what seems enormous waste. And yet when we look into any of her operations that lie within reach of our minds, we learn that no particle of her material is wasted or worn out. It is eternally flowing from use to use…
More and more, in a place like this, we feel ourselves part of wild Nature, kin to everything. Spent most of the day high up on the north rim of the valley, commanding views of the clouds in all their red glory spreading their wonderful light over all the basin, while the rocks and trees and small Alpine plants at my feet seemed hushed and thoughtful, as if they also were conscious spectators of the glorious new cloud-world.
Here and there, as I plodded farther and higher, I came to small garden-patches and ferneries just where one would naturally decide that no plant-creature could possibly live. But, as in the region about the head of Mono Pass and the top of Dana, it was in the wildest, highest places that the most beautiful and tender and enthusiastic plant-people were found. Again and again, as I lingered over these charming plants, I said, How came you here? How do you live through the winter? Our roots, they explained, reach far down the joints of the summer-warmed rocks, and beneath our fine snow mantle killing frosts cannot reach us, while we sleep away the dark half of the year dreaming of spring.”
-- John Muir (1869 journals), Mountaineering Essays, Richard M. Fleck, Ed. (Gibbs M. Smith, Inc., 1984)
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Most of us know a little about hectic living. Being busy isn’t a bad thing at all, of course, but there’s a point beyond which things start to be “too much” and become exhausting. Incessant activity without downtime can lead to stress and burnout.
It’s not pleasant to live with the feeling that we’re constantly rushed, always on the run, or trapped on a treadmill that we can’t get off, with never enough free time.
Weekends and vacations can provide opportunities to temporarily slow down. How about permanently decelerating? Living at a more relaxed pace? Sound appealing?
Easier said than done? Maybe not so difficult. There are many ways to get there. Trips to nature can help enormously -- including, of course, hiking trips.
When we hike – or otherwise spend time in the natural world – we disconnect for a time from the too-frequently-frantic and nerve-fraying pace of everyday life.
A trip into nature takes us (however briefly) away from everyday problems, worries, and frustrations -- and from the feeling that there’s always too much to do.
On a hike all we need to do is simple: follow the trail ahead of us, soak in the scenery, and summon up enough energy to meet any physical challenges involved.
That’s about it. We can let go of whatever has been occupying our minds, especially troubled thoughts, and just BE in nature. And maybe even have fun.
Back at home and work, it’s quite easy to fall back into “manic living.” But on the other hand, after having undergone a session of “nature therapy,” we can remember to breathe deeply and try to maintain a sense of peaceful equanimity.
Hiking is a helpful way to begin the process of slowing down, in part because it usually involves a total immersion in nature for at least several hours or more.
In time some of us may start to notice that at home and work we’re feeling more relaxed and handling stress better, and staying calmer even on our busiest days.
-- Charlie Cook