Thursday, June 28, 2012

Slow summer down

Summer is upon us in full swing - the days are the longest they will be all year, the average temperature is rising, the humidity continues to increase, as does the frequency of summer weddings, festivals, reunions, vacations, and get-togethers. In short, the outdoors have never been more appealing.

Most of these summer events are fun, social, fulfilling activities that folks around here have hard-earned after weathering yet another long winter. Leaping from weekend to weekend though, with each week seeming to be more booked than the last, is what concerns me. Letting these few golden months slip past seems like a waste to me, and to remedy it, I propose the following.

Slow summer down.

Walk outside, right now, and listen. What do you hear, what do you see? The world is alive around you. We have a boundless, flexible, renewable, expansive resource at our disposal. It’s called “outside,” and it’s always there, waiting for you. Outside there are no membership fees or other barriers to entry. In fact, it is your right as a human being in the free world to be there, and nobody can take that away from you. You can, however, surrender it. We do not live in a concrete jungle, next to interstates or beneath skyscrapers, and if that were the case, I’d have to suggest visiting a place of peace indoors, perhaps at a yoga studio or a library. How dull.

Instead, my method of slowing summer down is that of quiet observance -- being in a receptive mode outdoors. It seems to me like we spend too much of our waking hours trying to force our way through life, get everything done, fit triangular blocks into square holes, plan, plan, plan. And while being productive and achieving is necessary and rewarding, it’s vital we take time to reflect during the journey. After all, if you can’t enjoy the ride, what’s the point in arriving at the destination?

Here’s my solution. Take advantage of those peaceful hours in the day when you won’t be interrupted. If you don’t have any alone time in your day-to-day life right now, then make some. I’m serious, stop making excuses. Find some time in your day to be at peace, and let go of all the things you are responsible for, all the people who are relying on you. Find somewhere outside where you will not be bothered and are not expected to be in contact. The early morning hours are a great time to do this.

When was the last time you got up and watched the sunrise, just because you could? When was the last time you went for a walk at dawn instead of staying in bed for a few extra hours? Have you ever watched the steam rise and float across the river at five in the morning? If you have, you won’t soon forget it.

Do not let your list of chores for the day ruin your thoughts while you’re out there. If responsibility crops up into your consciousness, strike it down with a thought of how miniscule the world makes you, how quickly your name will be forgotten after you're gone. Yes, consider for a moment your mortality, face it, breathe deep, shut your eyes...you’ll feel alive, I promise. Admit your perspective of the world is not the only one in it, and you will start to see all the things in your life to be thankful for, things that other people are not as fortunate to have.

And there is the Zen you’ve been looking for all along - thankfulness. Once you’ve reached this state, of being appreciative for the time, and the beauty, and the peace you’ve surrounded yourself with, then you can really begin to open yourself to what the world has to offer. Life will slow down for you.

This suggestion is meditative and can be done in other settings, but I encourage you to take advantage of the warm weather and extended sunlight while it’s available. Walking through the woods, fishing from a rowboat -- heck, even enjoying breakfast with a friend on a lake at sunrise are all great ways to reconnect with our environment.

This week, take some time to go outside and live your life. Live your life. Don’t bother with the to-do list, the stack of bills, or cleaning the car. Instead, bother with deciding what animal shape the clouds most resemble, what the wind does to the surface of the lake, and what a single sunrise can do for your perspective on life. Bother with slowing summer down.

“Warm summer sun, shine kindly here. Warm southern wind, blow softly here. Green sod above, lie light, lie light. Good night, dear Heart, Good night, good night.” - Mark Twain

See you out there,
A woodsman in training

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