When the elusive midday sun shines from between the rain filled clouds, it is a reminder that not all of life is windy and wet.
On a recent night, as I walked in the woods of Jackson Park with my LED flashlight, bits of windblown debris scattered the footpath with branches of every size and length, trash from some careless park visitors, even the odd bit of clothing from a homeless camper.
Nature – or a close approximation of it, such as the park provides – has always been a source of peace and comfort for me. I grew up in the farmlands of the upper Midwest, where acres of orchards and fields abutted large nature preserves that had somehow gone unsold and undeveloped. These parcels were something like a second home for me; whether accompanied by my dog or completely alone, I treasured my hours-long rambles in their splendor.
In old age, just as in my childhood and youth, a long walk in the woods remains just about the only surefire cure for the blues. The weather is seldom a factor. I simply enjoy the fresh air and bundle up when needed. There are no manmade noises, artificial lights or human company – just peace and solitude and fresh air.
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I live now in Western Washington, where I’ve resided for more than half my life. It is not unusual for me to encounter a deer, fox or raccoon in my perambulations. Theirs is a welcome presence, one that reminds me that other beings share this planet, animals that have no use for the implements and devices of incessant distraction. They are truly and totally alive in a manner which few human beings ever attain.
And that manner of living is another attraction of nature walks: it provides me with a reminder that life need not be all about the habit of seeking to be constantly entertained, that to have a rich and fulfilling life, one must at times disconnect from artificial stimuli and interact with the world of the real.
The woods are a place for being in the moment, for noticing things without feeling the need to react to or label them. I may stop to study a growth of lichen on a deadfall branch, or to watch a tiny frog hop from trail to puddle. In such moments, I find a level of calm that is unattainable with electronic devices and automobiles.
And now, as the afternoon sun weakens, I check on the flowers out on the deck. They survived the previous night’s high winds quite nicely, although I need to remove a scattering of pine needles from their planters. This is another task that reminds me of the natural world, of matters that are to me more pressing than what might be airing on television right about now.
These are among the things that give me a profound sense of gratitude for having had a rural upbringing – tending to plants, walking under a canopy of conifers, gazing at a fawn as it nibbles on the leaves of a bush. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Abelard Montague is a proofreader and freelance writer who lives in Port Orchard.