“The earth changes in spite of us, the way the watery atmosphere is changing even as I write, felt in the trees, understood in the waters, followed by birds. It is our medium. There is no substitute for the eternal weather.
A magnificent autumn wind, expressing a major exchange between warm fronts and cold, stirs the tall white pines into powerful expression. Timber-loaded, sinewy trunks wave in the wind, the upward curving, sweeping branches giving and dancing, nobly bending and bowing down, springing gracefully back again. Thus majesty leads to majesty. Some image also sleeps in trees. Do they not have a secret receptiveness, even if they cannot be said to see in an outright sense? Are they not a “seeing” response to the wind, this growing darkness and this waning light, as they are reflected in the motion and fiber of their being? While the wind roars, I put my ear to the trunk of a pine and hear the air hissing up and down, fairly crawling over that great column with its skin of rough bark, and it sounds like rushing water…”
-- John Hay, The Immortal Wilderness (W.W. Norton & Company, 1989)
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We all know what stress feels like, and most of us have been through tough times at certain points in our lives when it may have felt like we were being tested.
Those of you who hike regularly are sure to be aware of the positive effects that spending time in nature can have on your stress levels and sense of well-being.
Periodically in my weekly entries I’ve included excerpts from articles that report on research demonstrating how therapeutic contact with nature can be.
For obvious reasons I don’t usually comment here on political or national events, but during rare times of "high national stress” I like to offer reminders that the natural world can be a wonderful refuge if or when we feel overwhelmed.
One example I remember vividly was the weekend after 9/11/2001, when some of our hikers showed up in a state of shock or numbness. Some were virtually silent.
Before the end of one of those hikes, several people announced to the group, almost joyfully, that they felt peaceful and hopeful for the first time in days.
In the weeks and months that followed, I spoke often of that experience, and even did some newspaper interviews on the subject of the remarkable shift in mood over a few hours that could be seen in some people who hiked with us that day.
As everybody knows, we recently had an important election, one that was extremely stressful for some of you. On many hikes I took it upon myself to interrupt the conversation whenever someone brought up the election, because there are usually people in the group who want a “news-and-politics-free day.”
Many of us react differently to events, of course, but I know (because you shared it with me) that a number of you had unusually strong feelings about the election and found the results devastating -- and are still having a tough time processing it.
Regarding that election and the political situation, or anything that’s worrisome in our world, let me offer another reminder: that one of the best therapies to avail ourselves of when we’re feeling overwhelmed is Nature Therapy. Immersing ourselves in "Mother Nature's Abode," the natural world, can help greatly in coping and healing.
-- Charlie Cook