When the mind is festering with trouble or the heart torn, we can find healing among the silence of mountains or fields, or listen to the simple, steadying rhythm of waves. The slowness and stillness gradually takes us over. Our breathing deepens and our hearts calm and our hungers relent. When serenity is restored, new perspectives open to us and difficulty can begin to seem like an invitation to new growth.
This invitation to friendship with nature does of course entail a willingness to be alone out there. Yet this aloneness is anything but lonely. Solitude gradually clarifies the heart until a true tranquility is reached. The irony is that at the heart of that aloneness you feel intimately connected with the world. Indeed, the beauty of nature is often the wisest balm for it gently relieves and releases the caged mind.
~ John O’Donohue (Excerpt from his book “Beauty: The Invisible Embrace)
I have now been retired for a year, and one of the true blessings which has come with that new status is the freedom to be out in the wonder and the beauty of nature far more than I was ever able to before. And I can’t think of a better way to capture what that experience has meant to me than the John O’Donohue quote above. “The slowness and stillness gradually takes us over.” But, as O’Donohue reminds us, it does entail “a willingness to be alone out there.” If I bring all of my fretting and worrying with me then it is much more difficult for stillness and serenity to take root. In those moments when I do manage to let myself be present to the experience (even if only in a less-than-perfect way – which, I supposed is always true) then the experience is powerful and transformative. And it leaves me with a gift that I can carry with me back into the rest of my living. It is a gift that keeps on giving. So, here’s to another year of hiking, and beauty, and awe, and wonder. May it be so.