let’s take a walk
At the small college I went to in — well, a long time ago — I was fortunate to enjoy fascinating classes, inspiring professors, and the best of friends. And, like a lot of college students, I was often sleep-deprived, stressed, and overwhelmed.
But I was also deeply in love with the place itself, a small campus set amongst thousands of acres of forest. Even now, more than twenty years later, those woods still feel like home whenever I visit.
During the four years I lived in that leafy wonderland, two of the things that could always get me out of my head and help lighten my mood were solitary walks in nature, and photography. Both separately and together, these became my personal form of meditation.
When I took the time to focus on the way light filters through leaves and fog; or on the interplay of sunlight and shadows on hundred-year-old architectural details; or, at night, on the sounds of insects and frogs and the sight of thousands of fireflies in the trees and stars in the sky — these things had an amazing capacity to clear and calm my mind.
As John Burroughs, a late-nineteenth-century “literary naturalist,” once wrote, “I go to nature to be soothed and healed, to have my senses put in order.”
And, of course, it’s not just me and John Burroughs who feel this way.
In an article posted on Psychology Today’s website in March 2016, Amy Green wrote …
“I’m sure many of us could describe the restorative effect of turning our faces into the sun on the first day that feels like spring, sitting near a body of water and observing the waves, or going for a walk at lunchtime to break up a day in the office. Well, that restorative feeling might not be so subjective: research suggests that spending time outdoors can improve our mood and self esteem [and] decrease our stress levels. But how? Stephen Kaplan [writing on the restorative benefits of nature in 1995] would say it’s because nature helps us to recover from “directed attention fatigue,” which he describes as: “Any time one has worked intensely on a project and subsequently finds oneself mentally exhausted.” … Shutting down our computers and getting into natural environments helps us rest our minds, recover from mental fatigue, and, as a result, mitigate our stress — all things that support our overall wellness.”
And there’s more.
Another PsychologyToday.com article, from July 2015, says this (emphasis added) … “To stay focused, we need to give our minds a rest periodically even during a workday. It turns out that natural environments — and even photos of nature — provide a unique kind of rest. They allow you to relax your attention but also keep other parts of your mind engaged, in beneficial ways.”
With our overarching theme of home, books, and reading … you’re probably wondering how the benefits of walking in the woods or looking at photos of trees fit in, exactly. Well, to my way of thinking, they can be tied together in a couple of significant ways.
If, like me, one of the places you feel most comfortable and “at home” is outside, in a natural setting, you probably strive — whether you realize it or not — to bring that natural-world peace into your own private spaces. That effort can be as major as choosing your neighborhood on the basis of its tree canopy, or choosing your house on the basis of how many windows it has and whether there’s a shady front porch to relax on. Or it can be something as (relatively) simple as planting a garden, or displaying photos of quiet, peaceful places in your favorite reading nook. In that case, you already have most of what you need right there, ready and waiting, whenever you need a “nature break.”
Hi, there! I’m Jennifer, and I help too-busy-to-read bookworms and those who want to *be* readers maximize life’s simple joys — like reading a good book — by helping them create quiet spaces (mentally and physically) inspired by the habits of cats, who are masters at finding joy in life’s small details.
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“The only important thing in a book is the meaning it has for you.”
W. Somerset Maugham
“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”
“There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book.”
“Standing there, staring at the long shelves crammed with books, I felt myself relax and was suddenly at peace.”
“What a happy woman I am, living in a garden, with books … birds, and flowers, and plenty of leisure to enjoy them!”
Elizabeth von Arnim
“A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.”
“The art of reading is … an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us; when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind.”
Carlos Ruiz Zafón
“When I … looked round at the familiar bookshelves, and could hear no sounds but sounds of peace, and knew that here I might read or dream or idle exactly as I chose with never a creature to disturb me, how grateful I felt to the kindly Fate that has brought me here and given me a heart to understand my own blessedness.”
Elizabeth von Arnim