“What wonders lie in every mountain day!... Crystals of snow, plash of small raindrops, hum of small insects, booming beetles, the jolly rattle of grasshoppers, chirping crickets, the screaming of hawks, jays, and Clark crows, the ‘coo-r-r-r’ of cranes, the honking of geese, partridges drumming, trumpeting swans, frogs croaking, the whirring rattle of snakes, the awful enthusiasm of booming falls, the roar of cataracts, the crash and roll of thunder, earthquake shocks, the whisper of rills soothing to slumber, the piping of marmots, the bark of squirrels, the laugh of a wolf, the snorting of deer, the explosive roaring of bears, the squeak of mice, the cry of the loon – loneliest, wildest of sounds.
Nothing is more wonderful than to find smooth harmony in this lofty cragged region where at first sight all seems so rough. From any of the high standpoints a thousand peaks, pinnacles, spires are seen thrust into the sky and so sheer and bare as to be inaccessible to wild sheep, accessible only to the eagle. Any one by itself harsh, rugged, crumbling, yet in connection with others seems like a line of writing along the sky; it melts into melody one leading into another, keeping rhythm in time.”
The cleanness of the ground suggests Nature taking pains like a housewife, the rock pavements seem as if carefully swept and dusted and polished every day. No wonder one feels a magic exhilaration when these pavements are touched, when the manifold currents of life that flow through the pores of the rock are considered, that keep every crystal particle in rhythmic motion dancing.”
-- John Muir, 1870s writings, from Mountaineering Essays, (Gibbs M. Smith, Inc., 1984)
* * * * *
When we’re on vacation, and/or enjoying a stint of backpacking or wilderness camping, many of us enjoy experiencing life at a slower, less-hectic pace.
All seasons offer distinctive pleasures, and summer is certainly no exception. It’s wonderful to have time to fully appreciate and savor everything life has to offer.
Some of you have extremely stressful jobs and overloaded schedules, needless to say, and we can all benefit greatly from slowing down every now and then.
A question that often comes up when we’re away on trips -- and one I’ve thought about many times during my life -- is (in so many words) “how can we maintain a sense of equanimity and balance back at home in the face of everyday demands?”
Some would say that goal may be impossible to achieve, and the only way may be to get away regularly, whether on hikes or on other “escapes” in or out of nature.
There’s no doubt that time spent in nature, hiking or otherwise, reduces stress and has other positive effects that can last for days. It’s essentially “nature therapy.”
We can also learn to pay closer attention to what happens in our bodies and minds when we’re in stressful situations, and also when in nature -- and try to “import” a measure of equanimity back into our busy workplaces and at home.
Those of you who have practiced meditation may understand some of the benefits of paying attention to our thoughts and inner states, which in time can help us learn to better keep stress at bay and maintain a sense of inner balance. This is a subject that I’ve addressed here in the past and will again soon.
When stress isn’t dominating our lives, the potential pleasures of the present moment can move more easily into the foreground, wherever we may be -- whether we’re immersed in work, or winding down at home, or out hiking or camping. Who wants to let life fly by without trying to enjoy and savor it as fully as possible?
-- Charlie Cook