This weekend, I was fortunate to be able to spend some time at our friend's cabin up on the North Shore of Lake Superior. It's in a beautiful spot, heavily forested with birch, cedar and pine, a short walk to the lake, and a cascading river running through the forest providing a sound backdrop that manages to mask the sound of the nearby highway. It also lacks internet.
While I could occasionally get a cell signal, it was spotty and very slow, so we spent a lot of time outside. I can resoundingly say that this was a much better way to spend my time. We went on long walks in the forest and up to the ridge lines overlooking the lake, we kayaked, and we explored some nearby trails.
On one of our walks, we followed the river upstream to a beautiful waterfall surrounded by tall rock walls. Large boulders provided the perfect spot to sit and watch the water pour from above into the pool at my feet. As I sat there, I had no thoughts of the daily dramas of life. No thoughts of work, politics or war. No thoughts of pain, illness or suffering of any kind. I didn't have a phone with me or camera to try to capture just the right image. I was simply there. Everything fell away except that moment and the pure sensory experience of hearing the water, feeling the cool air, seeing the deep green, and smelling the intoxicating scent of the forest surrounding me.
As we continued to walk I found my senses becoming nearly overwhelmed by the heady scent of of the trees and the simple beauty of the spring wildflowers just coming into bloom. Each inhale was like breathing in pure, sweet joy. With every step, I was filled with gratitude such that I nearly burst into tears a few times. With every step, I began to offer thanks. Thank you to this tree. Thank you to the leaves and pine needles beneath my feet. Thank you little purple flowers for being so delicate and lovely. Thank you wild strawberry blossoms that I know will yield flavorful fruit in just a few weeks. Thank you to the sun for providing the warmth and light that made these trees grow. Thank you to the powerful forces beneath the earth that created these rocks I step across. Thank you to the rain and clouds for the water that feeds this river and that provides life to this forest. Thank you to the people who came before me who created these paths that I follow. Thank you for my friends who so willingly share this beauty with me. Thank you for my son and husband who walk with me. Thank you to my parents for bringing me into the woods at a young age and kindling that spark within me of a deep love of the natural world.
It was a deeply satisfying walk, and I found myself full of energy despite the many miles I had walked that day.
There are many problems in the world, but sometimes we need to step away from them all. It was enormously helpful to have a news hiatus and to get back to the simplicity of the world that goes on without the artificial human drama that we create. When we are always focused on the things that make us upset and angry, on the the injustices of the world, we will always be supplied with examples. Seek and ye shall find. If you look for problems, you will find plenty of them. That does not mean we ignore the problems. But when we spend so much of our energy focusing on all the problems, we have no energy left for solutions. We don't realize that most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in our own sunshine. I forget this sometimes, even though it's the name of this blog. It's good to be reminded.
Turn around. Turn away from the computer and the news. Turn away from your work. Turn away from your worries, your self-doubt, and all the shadows that you see in front of you. Turn around and face the sun. Let the sun shine on your face and let the shadows fall behind you. Walk in the woods and smell the pines. If you can't walk, take a drive into a forested area and open up the windows. If you can't do that, step outside after a rain and breathe in the air.
And if you can't do that, close your eyes and imagine it. Imagine the wind blowing gently through the trees. Imagine the water tumbling over the rocks. Imagine butterflies hovering over new blossoms, and imagine your heart full of gratitude.