It is just the two of us wandering through boulders, over a river, and up a hill between pine trees. Rivers look particularly spectacular when there is pure white powder snow surrounding them and creating little caps on the boulders that are big enough to peak out of the water like icebergs. The river seems brighter, more colorful, and glossy with the snow contrasting its darker colors. It continues to move steady with a surreal foggy whiteness to its rapids and strong clarity to its stream.
As we continue to walk I notice a bright wooden red standing out against the snow. They are pine cones that look similar to wooden roses. Nature creates some miraculous art work with its resources. In the solitude of our walk, we welcome a great sense of peace. Walking through nature does something wonderful to the soul. It seems to release any tensions, any struggles, any problems, and allows the mind to wander freely. Instead of focusing on what could be, could have been, or should be, the mind focuses on each new discovery that lays right before it. Nature has an undeniable healing power. Whenever I feel any sort of negative emotion, a walk through the trees is all that is needed to slow my racing heart and bring clarity to my thoughts. Things never seem that bad when one is serenely wandering through nature. How could it? There is just so much beauty and power to our earth. It humbles us and welcomes us in with warm open arms. It feels like the truest sense of the word “home.”
There was a day I was feel particularly frustrated and distraught. I took a simple walk with my dog through a snow covered cornfield. It had little patches of thin ice that if you stepped on made loud crunches. Patterns swirled across the ice like intricate carvings of playful design. You could weave in between the little stubs remaining from the corn husks being cut down after the harvest. It wasn’t far from civilization, but it felt just far enough to offer the restoration and peace of mind I was seeking.
There is something to nature that feels almost magical. This makes climbing outside even more special. To be able to actively participate in any sport with nature is very rewarding. As fun as the gym has always been, there is something undeniable about the experience of the outdoors. The rock always has a unique feel, an interesting combination of colors and texture, and impressive features to notice. Sometimes the rock looks like other things like a rhino, an elephant head, a mushroom, etc. In certain areas you can hunt for these little statues nature creates.
There is that time for the calm that comes in listening to the birds or a trickling stream. There is that excitement that comes from the adventure of discovering new things. There is, after all, always something new and interesting to see outside even if you go to the same area.
I remember a time climbing in Rumney, NH. A Chipmunk came over and tried to open the top of one of my climbing partner’s peanut butter jar so that it could have some. It did not even seem to notice we were around. We watched laughing as it pushed and pulled at the lid. It looked around thinking about how to solve this puzzle of the jar. There is always something unexpected. You just have to notice.
There are, unfortunately, times when being in nature makes me angry or sad. It has nothing to do with nature itself, but rather with witnessing a lack of respect to something that offers us so much love, acceptance, calm, and good health. The benefits to time in nature are undisputed, and any scientific source can offer you a few. However, sometimes walking through the most beautiful parts, I see some very ugly trash. People who leave bottles from beverages, wrappers from food, or even hygiene products.
I’m not arguing that all people need to go as far as getting green cars and buying solar paneled houses. It would be nice, but it would be unrealistic. However, it does not cost a thing to pick up the things you were able to purchase. It does not cost anything to keep the plastic bag they were undoubtedly given to you in so that you can collect them at the end. It takes very little time to shove that plastic bag in your pocket until you need it. Please, let’s at least give back that much to the environment which gives us more than we could ever return. It is a sign of respect, it helps preserve the land we enjoy, and it helps keep climbing areas open. In fact, some climbing areas even have trash receptacles in their parking lots.
It is very disheartening to see beautiful areas covered in trash like slowly building landfills. It is hard to walk my dog down the street with a constant eye to where her face goes to make sure she doesn’t pick up something dangerous to eat. It is simple to pick up after ourselves, and it does a lot of good. Although it is the responsibility of those who do it, if you see trash please help out in picking it up if you have gloves or a bag. Try to educate people who may not be aware. We need to work together to keep our nature and beloved climbing areas clean. For those who already do this, I am very thankful and supportive of your efforts.
There really is nothing like being outside. The sights, smells, sounds, and feelings are valuable. Get out there and enjoy it, but remember to also take care of it.