"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better."
So a random thought ended up taking me on an interesting mental journey last week. For whatever reason a childhood friend came to mind, and I wondered if I might find him or anything about him on Google. I didn’t find my old friend, but I did come across the high school yearbook of where and when I would have graduated had my family not moved away from Philadelphia when I was fifteen. I was amazed and delighted to be able to page through every single person in that graduating class and I was shocked by all the memories that lit up in recognizing about three quarters of the students from my elementary and middle school years. It was as if I was reconnecting with so many old friends and memories but then I had to remind myself I was seeing them at age eighteen in 1984 but we are all in our fifties now. So, while I felt like I caught up with them finally, I also seemed to lose them again and then I wondered how many of them might be today.
That led me to an old memory from first grade which was also in the fall about this time of year when our teacher took us on what she called a nature walk. We had to stop and look around and talk about what we saw. I remember particularly the gigantic oak trees which had leaves that had turned red and orange and yellow and they seemed to reflect the warmth of the sun all around us. There were also acorns on the ground everywhere and I learned that an oak tree can live a thousand years and can produce ten million acorns in that time. But on average only one acorn of every thousand ever grows up to be an oak tree. I was amazed that I could learn so much and see so much just by stopping and really looking intently at our surroundings.
Those memories have given me an urge to really get outside and look around again and to stop missing some of the most relaxing and peaceful things right in front of me. You may be surprised to know that just spending time in nature has been found to significantly lift moods and it can sometimes help alleviate mood disorders even more effectively than medication. Simply spending an hour or so a week in nature like a local park can lower blood pressure and stress hormones, it can enhance our immune systems, and even reduce anxiety and increase our self-esteem. Knowing that now makes me so much more appreciative of those nature walks with my first-grade teacher.
So I encourage you to find some time this week to take a break and get outside. Sit somewhere and close your eyes and listen to see what all you can hear. Take time to smell and look for those pleasant aromas of fall foliage and late blooming flowers or grasses. Look up at the sky and all around and even down at the ground to really look and see all that is around you, all that is alive, all that is there to soak in your senses and relax. Notice how much different you feel after returning from outside compared to when you first went out. Overall, slow down, observe, reflect, and enjoy.
I hope you have a terrific week!