I took a walk last weekend around sunset after a day of mowing and yard work. I wanted to enjoy my favorite time of day, the time I call the “golden hour.” It is about an hour before sunset when the trees, water, and animals are bathed in a warm golden glow of the setting sun. As I walked the trail there was a great deal of commotion from birds who thought it was time to settle down for the evening. I was a potential predator rousing them from the safety and comfort of the dense brush. It dawned on me that the delightful evening stroll I was taking was anything but peaceful to the critters.
I enjoy visiting natural places, looking for wildlife tracks, listening to birds, and noting changes in the trees. However most of my time spent outdoors usually involves some form of physical activity or mental distractions. How do you become a part of your natural surroundings instead of a disturbing presence? Practicing mindfulness; closing out all of your thoughts, opening your senses and being completely present is a start.
When I was a kid laying down on a fallen tree and looking at the clouds was high on my priority list. My mom called it hiding out. I had several places outdoors that I loved to go just to get away. As working adults and parents our responsibilities fill up our day and quiet time becomes better known as sleep. Human beings evolved in the natural environment and we still need time in nature to support our optimal functioning. It’s a theory known as biophilia.
Give it a try and find your sit spot. Go to a place nearby that you can visit daily or at least a few times a week. It helps if you can sit still and be less visible to the wildlife. Visit the spot at different times of day and throughout the seasons. Turn off the mental “to do” list, your electronics and your thoughts. Open your eyes, your ears and breathe in the smells. If you like to draw, bring a notebook and sketch or just note your observations. Take a picture when you visit and compare them over the year.
Notice the colors of the leaves and the shapes of the clouds. Observe the movements of the spider on its web or the squirrels gathering nuts. Listen to the sounds; are the birds calling out in warning? Feel the warmth of the sunshine, dampness of the ground, or the coolness of the breeze. Take several deep breaths and smell the fresh cut grass. If you visit frequently, the wildlife around your spot will become accustomed to your presence and act naturally.
I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out until sundown. For going out I found I was really going in.
— John Muir
I revisited a spot along my usual evening walk and just sat still for 10 minutes. I felt the warmth of the setting sun and listened to the sound of the meadow creatures gathering their evening meal. I noticed the dragonflies skimming the water, fish coming up to snap at a fly and a heron’s silhouette along the water’s edge.