"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks." - John Muir
There are certain winter days that appear to be just about perfect, and today would be one of those days. Bright blue skies, brilliant sunshine and a fresh blanket of pristine snow making sunglasses an absolute necessity; perfect conditions to be outdoors.
Taking full advantage of the conditions, we wandered the Spring Creek Trail today, crunching between snow covered pines and the meandering creek which alternated between frozen solid and gurgling open water. I had expected to see quite a few other hikers based on the excellent conditions but didn't pass a single person in the couple of hours that we walked. A rarity but not an unwelcome one.
I had noticed a dead young deer the week before, trapped under the ice in what I could only imagine was a failed creek crossing and noticed today that it had been pulled to the shore and was for the most part stripped of its sinewy muscle by the local coyote population, the circle of life in action.
Days like this always affect me in a particular way. I am typically struck by the obvious beauty and appreciation for nature and the changing seasons that we experience but it seems like more than that. A deep sense of calm and of gratitude usually accompany these experiences and lately, it has got me wanting to better understand why.
I wonder if it is the sheer pace of life, the constant demands and pressures combined with the reality of our times and the relentless connection to technology that leaves our brains racing and bombarded with reams of information.
I am now finding university studies, and plenty of them, that are drawing a clear correlation between nature and relaxed heart rate, brain function and a sense of well-being. I have read through a few but need to research more in my quest for understanding.
Is it a return to a more primitive state that our brain is craving or a sense of cleansing, a respite from the relentless "noise"? I do not know the answer to that question but can say with certainty that the impact, for me anyway, has become predictable, and very welcome.
Even a short time in the woods on a day like today leaves me feeling more relaxed, more creative and more joyful. Almost a sense of healing. In this particular case, I am coming off a week where I was fighting a stomach bug and today's venture out left my energy level feeling high, back to my old state. A placebo effect? Perhaps, but it works for me so I'm not complaining.
This is definitely a phenomenon that I want to understand more and I will take the time over the next few months to research more. In the meantime, I will accept it for what it is; a health improving pastime that leaves me feeling in awe of of nature, healthy and vibrant and time will spent with man's best friend.
My wish is that you experience something similar.