Thursday, November 15, 2007

Communing with Nature

by Trish Milburn

As writers, we spend a lot of time indoors in front of our computers. Not only are we spending time writing and doing online research, but there are e-mails to answer, blogs to read, funny YouTube videos to watch. Even when we're doing something we enjoy, sometimes it begins to build stress within us and we need an outlet, something that doesn't require a computer or sitting on out butts. Something basic and simple.

For me, that wonderful release is spending time outdoors -- and more than just doing yard work. I love to go to state or national parks, out away from the city, away from the noise, away from my ever-expanding to-do list. I like to just sit and breathe in the scent of the forest after a rain, listen to the water falling over rocks in a stream, watch the birds float up high on the thermals, drink in the beauty of a clear, blue sky on a crisp, sunny autumn day. Just thinking about it makes me smile.

I've been very busy lately, and that's not likely to change anytime soon. But a couple of weeks ago before it began to get cold, I took most of the day off to spend with my husband. We drove about 90 miles from our house to one of my favorite state parks.

We walked hand-in-hand in the woods, sat and watched waterfalls, and strolled along a sandy beach. After we left the park, we drove through some rural areas dotted with big fields of cows and rolling, wooded hills filled with trees that are beginning to show some fall color. It was all relaxing and just what I needed before facing a lot of deadlines and responsibilities in the next couple of months.

I think we often forget to take time to do simple things like take walks in the woods. Whether we're writers or attorneys or stay-at-home moms, we've nearly forgotten how to just be. Even while trying to enjoy a day of freedom, our brains are constantly trying to interrupt to tell us about all those things back home that we have to do. This mindset causes a lot of stress that's unnecessary and unhealthy.

Does spending time outdoors help you relax? If so, where is your favorite place to commune with nature?
Hey, if you can't commune with nature today, why not commune with your Internet connection and scoot on over to the Romantic Times site to vote for OUT OF SIGHT, my entry in the American Title contest? The second round of voting is under way, and I really want to "stay on the island." :) Thanks!


Helen said...

Trish your day out with your husband sounds wonderful I like to do those things as well and also visit the beach I don't have much time to do them though I really should make time everyone needs to unwind i really think it helps to keep us all going in todays busy lifestyles.
Have Fun

Tawny said...

That sounds so lovely, Trish! I'm glad you got some time to take off with hubby and refuel :-)

I admit it, I don't spend enough time in out communing with nature. Partially its the big city life, although I do a lot of gardening and such with my yard (I call it my enchanted garden, its wild, colorful and so serene). One of my favorite places, though, is my family's cabin up in the Cascade Mountains. There is a river that runs alongside the cabin, and huge trees that are perfect for leaning against while watching the water rush by.

I have a rock I brought back from there one trip that I keep on my desk. When I get too stressed, I hold it and close my eyes, and just picture myself back there.

Aunty Cindy said...

Okay Helen and Tawny, I SWEAR you two posted between me hitting "publish" and "view"! SHEESH! This GR competition is getting completely outta hand!

Trish is incognito for the next couple of days so I promised to published her blog and run interference for her. Of course you can all GUESS your ole Aunty's favorite way to commune with nature... Yes, it involves cabana boys and tall, frosty drinks with paper umbrellas!

off to watch Leno

DownUnderGirl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DownUnderGirl said...

It's the beach for me. Anywhere with waves on sand. I don't have to go in for a swim or even walk on the beach as long as I can see the ocean and hear the waves.
There's something very elemental about it. That feeling of watching something thats been around since the dawn of time. Long before humans. It puts our lives into persepective. And the beat of tide on shore is so very, very soothing.

That's my dream house - a beach shack. Missed that real estate boat though :-(


Keira Soleore said...

Ahhh, just the topic I need. The ocean is my healing place. The surge and ebb of the waves, the smell of the water, the screech of sea gulls, the cool breeze coming in from the water, the sun warm on my face... yes, that's my stress release, the desire of my heart. The last time I was in such a place was in May. It doesn't happen often that I get the opportunity to be in a place like this.

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Helen, you got the rooster! Congratulations! It comes back downunder where it belongs. It's a marsupial rooster! Cindy, you need a rooster booster! Even when you're posting the blog, you're still the golden sloth! I think the universe is trying to tell you something ;-)

Great post, Trish! You're so right about needing to get out, no matter what we've got on our plates. Like Amy and Keira, the ocean is the place for me. Just listening to those waves takes all the stress down to a managable level for me. And I can look at the sea forever. I also think I love the sea so much because most of my childhood holidays were beach holidays and there's all that wonderful association with carefree, happy times.

Anna Campbell said...

And most important - VOTE FOR TRISH!!!! We want her on the island until that island sinks into the sunset! Yay, Trish!

Buffie said...

Trish, your day off with the hubby sounds wonderful to me. I love taking walks with my family, especially when we are some place new and the boys are in awe of everything they see (especially the 5 year old).

Christine Wells said...

Gorgeous scenery, Trish! The ocean does the same for me. I could sit on the beach forever and watch the waves come in. I wish I could do it more often. Thanks for reminding us to stop and smell the wildflowers sometimes:)

Trish, you're even getting great comments from Flavia. I think you're a shoe-in, as long as we can get those voters voting! Go, Trish, go!

Christie Kelley said...

Trish, there is nothing like getting outdoors to get away from the stress of the day. Sometimes just a quick walk is all that's needed. Your trip with your husband sounded great.

Lucky for me, I live in a water community on a tidal river off the Chesapeake Bay. So anytime I need a little relief from the stress of the day, I walk down to the water and sit on a bench. Now that fall is here, the geese have returned and sitting by the water listening them and the halyards clanging on the sailboats is wonderful. If it wasn't pouring today, I'd walk down there. Oh well, maybe tomorrow.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

'morning Trish. What a lovely day with your husband! I always feel more relaxed outside and in nature, but I can never drag myself away from my computer long enough to do it.

Congrats on the American Title nomination! And thank you to all you Banditas who stopped by Romance: B(u)y the Book/Let's Talk Romance yesterday to visit with your girl, Anna. You made it one of the most vibrant days we've had.

Grazie! Thank you!

doglady said...

Your day sounds heavenly,Trish. I so envy Anna C and any of you that live near the ocean. It is so soothing and such a great reminder of how big the world is. I am so fortunate in that I live on my five acres in the woods so nature is right outside my back door. This AM I shared my morning cup of Earl Gray with a flock of wild turkeys which show up every morning in my pasture. I have bird feeders in several trees so I am always playing host to migrating travelers. For so many years I was traveling and studying and didn't have the time so now I make it a point to spend a little time with nature every day. And hey, it is great research for the scenes that take place outdoors in my novel.

p226 said...

Oh yeah. Time outdoors is time well spent in my book. Women often wonder how a guy can spend so much time and energy on fishing or hunting. For so many of us, it's not about the fish or the game. It's about the time spent in solitude with nature. It allows you to boil existence down to very simple terms.

In my opinion, one cannot truly escape from the day-to-day madness without focusing on something else. There are a myriad ways to do this. Racing used to be an awesome method to achieve this effect. Your very life is boiled down to the throttle, the brakes, and the turn. While it's very intense, it's incredibly simple in its intensity. There's very little to manage out on the track.

Fishing and hunting are very similar. You're focused on a single task. And it's often done in the most serene of environments. When stalking or waiting, there's a lot of time to think about those things you wish to escape. But I normally don't. I tend to focus on the natural beauty around me. However, when that bass hits the lure, or when that 8 point buck walks into view, everything (and I mean the whole of your universe) is boiled down to that moment. Setting the hook and keeping slack out of the line. Calming your heart-rate for the trigger press.

I've never had a deer in my sights and thought about a bill or account balance. It's just never happened. Not once have I had a bass hit the lure and cause me think about my schedule for the next day.

"Gone fishin'" is as much a mental state as it is physical.

Claudia Dain said...

I love being out in nature, especially in the woods and streams and lakes variety of nature. I like the ocean, but find it more invigorating than soothing. Give me a patch of woods to walk any day!

Susan Seyfarth said...

Hey, p226, you & my dad ought to hang out. He goes deer hunting every year & has since before I can remember. I used to wonder why he didn't come home with a deer more often. The older I've gotten, the more I realize that while his week at deer camp IS about being in the woods, it's also about being AWAY from us (his wife & FOUR DAUGHTERS.) :-)

But Trish, I fully appreciate the power of the outdoors. I'm a die-hard jogger but my babies can't brave the cold in the jog stroller the way I can on the move. I now run probably 6 months a year on a treadmill in the comfort of my basement with my kids scattered on the floor around me & it just doesn't clear my head the way shoving that damn jog stroller up hill for three miles does. When I run outside, my head clears. I don't watch the time tick down until the torture ends. I just run, foot fall after foot fall until I'm back where I started. It's like a mantra. I think about my writing, problems in my plot, I mumble troublesome dialogue out loud to the rhythm of my feet until it works itself out.

Come spring, I'm a ridiculous sight out on the sidewalk, running behind sixty pounds of toddler & jog stroller, grinning like an idiot because I'm so happy to be back outside.

Thanks for the inspiring post! If it hits 50 degrees here today, I'm running outside!

Caren Crane said...

I do love getting away outdoors. I almost always prefer the mountains. Any time of year, the mountains are restful, wild and beautiful.

For some reason, the beach is not restful for me. I prefer it in winter, when there are fewer people about. I really don't care for the wind-blown sand or baking sun or any of that. Maybe it comes from always having to sit under the pier to avoid roasting like a rooster! *g*

Suzanne Welsh said...

Lovely post, Trish and I know just the kind of scenery you have over there in Tennessee! Makes it easy to be outdoors.

I recently went home to Ohio to visit my parents. The annual fall trip puzzles my husband. "Why on earth would you want to go to Ohio in late fall? It's cold, it's drizzly, it's dark early."

That's the whole point. I need the cool crisp air, the drizzly weather, the cloudy overcast sky. Odd? No. I was rasied there, it calls to me. It makes me appreciate the 70 degrees in Texas and nearly sunny days when I get back to Dallas. But my soul, the part that hums its own tune needs to reconnect to those Columbus days. I adore tramping through the colored leaves on my morning walk, then drinking that cup of hot Irish tea when I get in out of the cool weather. :)

Anna Campbell said...

Morning, Michelle! Nice to see you here again! We love to have you visit. P226, my brother fishes and he says what you do. It's thinking time in a beautiful environment when he can just watch the world go buy (he's a sit on the bank and ruminate sort of fisherman). I didn't get it when I was younger. I used to get bored so I'd take a book (hey, everyone meditates in their own way) but now I'm older, I ABSOLUTELY get why men fish.

Aunty Cindy said...

*Aunty wipes bleary eyes* Morning Everyone!
Ah, Amy, Keira and Mme D-W you hit on EXACTLY what it is about the beach that I love...the sound of the waves, the feel of all that ancient power, and the smell most of all! That tinge of salt in the air is something I've loved since I was a very young child.. ya know, back when the Pilgrims were scrambling over Plymouth Rock? :-P

And dear Foanna, 'tis not the universe trying to tell ME something, but the other way round!

Isn't it wonderful to see children experience something for the first time, Buffie? That's one of the things I miss most now that mine is "grown up." *Aunty fights to hold in a snork.*

And Christie, I hope your new roof is firmly in place and that the rain stops long enough for you to go down dockside. How lucky you are to live there!

One last reminder before Aunty stumbles off for her morning shower: VOTE FOR TRISH!!! And tell all your buddies and co-workers and family member to do the same! We want our most esteemed Bandita to WIN THIS CONTEST! And of course, this is in NO WAY related to our nefarious plan for Bandita World Domination. That is purely rumor!


Aunty Cindy said...

Oh and MILLE GRAZIE to YOU, Michelle, for dropping by and saying those nice things about us! Yes, we are quite a VIBRANT bunch, amongst other things...

AC slinks away for now

Nancy said...

Trish, I enjoyed your day out. It sounds peaceful and yet energizing.

I'm with the ocean crowd. I just returned from a weekend at the beach with old friends. There were almost no people on the beach, so I had long vistas of waves and water and sea birds. There's something about the timelessness of the ocean that's good for me. I also seem to get ideas I like when I'm there.

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Michelle is going to come and blog with us! Whoo-hoooo! How cool is that?

Cassondra said...

Hi everyone, and Trish, I'm envious. That's the kind of day I've been wishing for. I do love the ocean, but it's a different kind of energy. If I want to get centered, remember who I am and why I'm here on this planet, I need the woods-specifically wooded hills with little gulleys that shelter gurling streams that blurp down through rocks--with moss and ferns and BIG OLD TREES.

I live in farmland--soybeans and corn, and there's a beauty to that--I love it. But actually it's too flat for me here. I need to walk in hardwood forests, fish in ponds and lakes. Sit and just watch what happens around me in the woods.

I have a saying by Thoreau above my computer. It says Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.

I love to fish. I never get to do it, but I think I said on a blog post earlier in the week--I love to fish whether any fish get involved or not. (grin)

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hey Helen! You got the Golden Rooster!! Wahoo on you, girl! :>
Tawny, sounds like the first Bandita Retreat needs to be at that cabin in the Cascades...what a lovely description of your garden as well.
Oooh, Doglady, aren't wild turkeys cool to watch? Of course I think that about anything wild - turkeys, hawks, foxes, men, etc.
Caren, once again with the twin thing. I'm a mountain gal. Like you, the beach is only appealing in fall and winter.
Hi Michelle! How cool that you're going to blog with us. Woo-hoo!
Cassondra, I'm with you on the Big Old Trees. If there are trees, I'm happy. Maybe that's why the beach, the desert Southwest and the Rockies aren't that appealing to me. No Big Old Trees. Grins.
The Appalachians, the Uwharries, the Ouachita range...all the "old" mountians are what I love, with the tree and laurel cover, broken up by the craggy "bones of the Earth Dragon" breaking through for contrast. Gawgeous.
Oh, and by the way, VOTE FOR TRISH!

MsHellion said...

I'm not a huge nature girl. Pretty pictures though.

I do, though, love going to St Louis with a friend, and we go to Forest Park and hang out. It's gorgeous and we talk and it's just enough nature and just enough "city" to feel outdoors without roughing it. We play on the paddleboats a lot. I make chocolate covered strawberries and we picnic.

And I love the ocean. Until I saw Helen mention though, I forgot the ocean was also nature. *LOL* All the pics looked like scenes of Colorado or my back yard...and well, I'm a bit like Dorothy--I'm never really that interested in my own back yard. Hmmm.

My favorite commune time at home, in my backyard with the trees is at night. The sky is black, the stars are bright, the air is fresh and crisp, and the leaves rustle so prettily. But I don't usually stay too long to admire it...about that time a raccoon comes up and scares the bejeezus out of me and I run screaming into the house.

Yeah, I'm a great farmer's daughter.

Christine Wells said...

Yay, Michelle! Great to hear you'll be hanging out in the lair. Looking forward to it!

Aunty Cindy said...

Good Evening All!
Aunty is now awake (or as awake as she ever gets).

p226, thank you for confirming what we ladies already knew, or suspected. Those hunting and fishing trips men make have little or nothing to do with the fish or game. Just as so many shopping trips we women take have nothing to do with the purchases. :-P

GREAT to see you, TICD! Looks like you are in the majority today in loving those woods and mountains. Actually, Aunty doesn't mind either of those, as long as there is a lovely chateau complete with indoor plumbing, roaring fireplace, and a few "cabin boys" to wait on my every whim... Where was I???

Oh yes, doglady, there are actually wild turkeys right here within the city limits of Sac-Town. I know because I had to stop on a freeway on-ramp a few weeks ago to let a mama turkey and her four chicks cross in front of me. This was very close to a river (I live in a flood plain) which is where I suspect they were headed. And Ms Hellion, I don't blame you a bit for getting away from those racoons. Those guys can be downright nasty when you try to get between them and their grub!

One more time: VOTE FOR TRISH! I have now done my duty and thanx everyone for visiting and commenting,

who is SUPER EXCITED that Michelle is going to be a guest blogger with us!

Anna Sugden said...

Lovely post Trish.

It's the beach for me (The Maldives anyone?)... something about waves and water. I like rivers and lakes too. Wonder if it's because I'm from an island?

If there is peace and beauty, forests, mountains and even rocks can be inspiring and help recharge those batteries. The Arches National Park in Utah was awesome. As were the glaciers in Alaska.

Oh, and communing with nature only goes so far. I don't do camping any more *grin*. I like a proper bed and facilities!

Helen said...

Yay the golden rooster is back downunder
I have voted Trish good luck

Have Fun

Caren Crane said...

What, no Beach Babes vs. Mountain Mamas smack down going on? I'm a bit disappointed, I must say. I was willing to pit my creek rocks against someone's driftwood! *g*

I figured the Jeanne and Cassondra would be with me on the mountain thing. Trish, too, by gum! Joan should be, too (being a good Kentucky girl) but she tends to be unpredictable sometimes. Darned Irish blood...

Joan said...

Me? Unpredictable? (She says firing up her eyes LOL).

I enjoy a good nature or two. I like mountains and oceans a lot. I do NOT like flat in Nebraska or Iowa type..I need HILLS!

As far as actually communing with nature...Ireland. I sat down on a log in Killarney National Forest and quite literally felt as if I could have "become one" with the land..the trees...the moss...the cute little black haired Irish lad...


jo robertson said...

Thanks, Trish, for the reminder that today's women in general seem to live life on the edge of panic.

I love to visit the California redwoods. Those giant, ancient trees make me feel small, but in a good way, like I'm a tiny cell in a great, beating pulse of a universe.

Anonymous said...

Waah, late for the party as usual! And such a great topic!

I love my nature in just about any form--mountains, beach, desert, redwoods, you name it. As long as it's quiet and relatively untouched, I'm happy. I did visit a beach in southern california recently that really freaked me out--they had a beach cleaning machine to groom the sand, and there were guys with leaf blowers blowing the sand off the concrete around the pristine lavs. It was rather terrifying.

Actually, lately I've had a little TOO much nature--in the form of a very large skunk who has taken up residence somewhere nearby! He has sprayed our brainless labrador TWICE in the past month. We've resorted to taking him out to pee in the front yard, because the skunk seems to prefer the back.

Any suggestions (from anyone who is still awake) for skunk removal?

Trish Milburn said...

I'm finally at my destination (been traveling by train the past three days), so I'm late in responding to everyone. But here goes:

First, Aunty Cindy, thanks so much for posting for me today as my train trundled across Nevada and California.

I love the beach too. Alas, it's an 8-hour drive to the nearest one.

Tawny, the cabin spot sounds beautiful. The train went through some gorgeous parts of the Sierra Nevada today, and I thought, "Yeah, I could get used to having a place up here." :)

Christine, I'm a little floored (but very grateful) about the comments I'm getting from the AT judges. Makes me a little nervous too though.

Michelle, thanks for the AT congrats and for stopping by. I hate that I missed Anna's day on your blog yesterday, but shockingly there's no Internet connection on a moving train trekking through the canyon of Colorado. Although there was a nice electric outlet and I got 30 pages written yesterday.

doglady, your acreage sounds lovely. I grew up in the country, and sometimes I miss the quiet and openness and simplicity. Though I have to say that San Francisco is very pretty tonight as I look out my hotel window.

p226, I'm not a hunter or an angler (I'm a softy and can't imagine killing anything, though oddly I'm not a vegetarian), but I certainly know lots of people who are. I'm fairly certain my father-in-law will turn into a fish one day he spends so much time out on the lake in his boat. :)

Trish Milburn said...

Susan, I feel the same way about the treadmill. But it's me who can't stand the cold. My lungs don't like it even if I bundle up the rest of me until I look like the Michelin Man. :)

I know what you all mean about going to the beach in the off season when it's not so crowded and it's not nine hundred degrees. It's very relaxing and quiet then. We like to go in October or November.

I too like nature in all it's various forms. I, being a good southern girl, like the Appalachians and the woods. But I also love the desert southwest. There's something beautiful in all that emptiness. I love seeing forever. And this morning when I woke up, there was the most stunning orange and purple sunrise over the low mountains in the eastern Nevada desert. Yesterday, the train weaved through redrock canyons along the Colorado River. Gorgeous. Today's ride took us by the glacial lakes of the Sierra Nevada, orange groves and finally the Bay area -- all beautiful in their own way.

Trish Milburn said...

Kirsten, this sounds odd, but one cure for skunks is fox urine, which you can buy at hunting stores. And yes, I've bought a bottle of fox pee at our local Bass Pro Shop to get rid of the skunk who liked to winter under our house.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Trish! I will give it a try. :-)