"...These are the questions I find myself brooding about as I sit in meditation beside Lookout Creek. One is not supposed to brood while meditating, of course, so again and again I let go of thoughts and return my awareness to the water sounds, the radiant autumn leaves, the wind on my cheek, the stony cold chilling my sitting bones. And each morning, for shorter or longer spells, the fretful “I” quiets down, turns transparent, vanishes.”
* * * * *
“Who could sit here, on this gravel bar beside Lookout Creek, and imagine that we are the sole source of meaning? Against a halcyon blue sky, the spires of trees stand out with startling clarity, their fringe of lichens appearing incandescent. Moths and gnats flutter above the stream, chased by dragonflies. The creek is lined by drift logs in various states of decay, from bone-gray hulks to rotting red lumps. Wet boulders gleam as if lit from within. Cobbles jammed against one another look like the heads of a crowd easing downstream. The muscular current, twisting over rocks, catches and tosses the light. The banks on either side blaze with the salmon-pink leaves of dogwoods, those western relatives of the beloved understory tree of my Indiana forests. Everything in sight is exquisite -- the stones of all sizes laid against one another just so, the perforated leaves of red alders, the fallen needles gathered in pockets along the shore, the bending grasses, the soaring trees.”
-- Scott Russell Sanders, from “Mind in the Forest”, Orion magazine, November/December 2009
* * * * *
Hibernation doesn’t really work for human beings, although many people are tempted to nestle in at home on weekends when the mornings are dark and cold.
It’s important to get ample rest and sleep, of course, and staying home makes sense if we’re feeling truly wiped out -- and if we’re ill, even spending extra time in bed.
But the sluggishness some people feel in winter isn’t helped by staying cooped up indoors, which can lead to a case of winter blues or seasonal affective disorder.
Engaging in outdoor activities like hiking during the colder months is great preventive medicine for winter blues. It’s virtually guaranteed to boost anyone’s spirits.
Our bodies need exercise to stay healthy, and exercising outdoors – especially in natural areas – gives us hefty doses of vital oxygen and generates endorphin highs.
Every spring I hear from a few hikers who stayed home during the colder months and who tell me that they’ve just been through a “difficult, depressing winter.”
I can testify that no one who hikes with us (or snowshoes with us) during winter feels that way, or is a likely candidate for depression. Elevated moods are the norm.
Some of our members enthusiastically welcome the arrival of cold weather, and look forward to the pleasures of winter hiking, snowshoeing, and/or cross-country skiing.
Winter always entails significant swings in temperatures and weather, of course. Such swings have become wider in recent years, and along with cold snaps, it’s not unusual to experience some spells of quite warm, spring-like weather as well.
If you’re someone who has NOT been looking forward to the season ahead, it’s within your power to positively transform your relationship with winter, believe it or not -- and do yourself a healthy favor -- by making plans for some winter hikes!
-- Charlie Cook