There is no shortage of posts on the internet pertaining to the concept of nature inspiring zen. Need to think? Go sit in a field somewhere. Need to get away? Go for a hike. As someone who wouldn't describe herself as a nature lover, I've always found the idea of nature as some kind of cure all to not only be fallacy, but an over simplification of what it means to find not just happiness or peace, but solutions.
Cut to several Saturdays ago, when I woke up to the view of Dennison Mountain outside the window of a rental house in Springville, California. Just outside the Sequoia National Forest, and about three hours away from Los Angeles, the landscape and vibe had completely changed. Here, I wore my lounge pants and workout shorts. The outdoors were lush and green, full of livestock and wildlife, tall trees and rolling tumbleweed. No billboards or excessive concrete. I couldn't see to the next house and I couldn't hear even the cars on the main road from the driveway. It was quiet, desolate and calm, three things I'm not at all used to.
Usually, I'd get stir crazy in such an environment but I felt incredibly stimulated. Surrounded by great friends and good food, I enjoyed a weekend full of memorable experiences. But what I remember most of all are the drives up and down the mountains in search of big trees.
On Saturday, we set out to visit the Trail of 100 Giants. The winding curve roads were like a video game race course track, full of switchbacks. I should've gotten nauseous but with the window open, the wind on my face and the breathtaking views in my line of vision, I could only focus on the natural beauty surrounding me. It was majestic, and later, inspiring.
Throughout the weekend, these drives inspired moments of contemplation that I hadn't expected and issues that I fumed and toiled with for months on end suddenly had clear solutions. Suddenly, I knew what upset me about the way I work. I knew better what my goals are and who I want to become.
It wasn't the quiet that allowed me to finally see and think clearly. It was the majesty of what surrounded me, the significance of being with a group of loving friends celebrating a milestone birthday without considering what life had in store but really, truly enjoying the moment.
I've never really been good about putting the future on hold to really be present. To think clearly about what I was experiencing at that very second.
Feeling this bliss in the here and now opened up the possibilities for the future. Monday morning, I woke up restored for the first time in many Mondays. A part of me feared the feeling would fade quickly as the work week grabbed hold, but another part of me was optimistic that I learned a permanent lesson in the woods that would stay with me for a long time to come.
And while much of that spirit did fade, the lessons I learned did not. I started waking up with more of a purpose and earlier. I recalibrated my goals; it isn't enough to write for a couple hours a day but it's important to try to reach the end of a project goal by a certain deadline. I've been reading more and working harder, because I realize that this and not laziness is what makes me feel better about myself and more fulfilled. I've been trying to be kinder and less impacted by small setbacks.
I've been trying to remind myself that there is peace in every day if I let myself find it, and then, there will be happiness too.