Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Spending Time in Nature Is Self-Defense

Last week, we took the family on a quick vacation to the White Mountains region of New Hampshire. We did lots of touristy stuff for the kids, of course — time at Story Land, a day out with Thomas the Tank Engine, pony rides, and plenty of time in the swimming pool — but for me (and for all of us, I think), the best elements of the trip were just reconnecting with family and nature.

There were plenty of "animal attractions" at the touristy places: pigs, sheep, and goats aplenty. Not to mention an alpaca or two. But out in the wild, we saw deer, fish, and salamanders. We got bug bites. And at one point, a black bear crossed my path not 30 yards ahead of Ava and me. We saw rainbows over distant mountains and the stars at night. We smelled the pollution-free air, and we listened to waterfalls and to silence. Silence!

The effect that the woods, mountains, and fresh air had on my daughter was nothing short of amazing. Her natural curiosity came out in the form of questions like, "What do bears eat?", "Where do the deer sleep at night?" and "How do you tell the difference between a boy ladybug and a girl ladybug?"

Now, being a former Marine, I've spent a great deal of time out in nature. But it's been some time since my last outing. To be away from the city, away from the urban noises and pollution, and away from traffic and the crush of other people (even just for a few days) — well, it was restorative. And I also noticed that being out in the mountains gave my eyes and vision the chance to stretch all the way out to the real horizon instead of just to the next block of buildings. Even my gaze has softened.

We finished the trip with a quick stop at America's Stonehenge, where we walked amidst a 4,000 year old site where stones are placed to align with the movements of the sun and stars. The site was built accurately long, long before GPS "technology" existed. This was a time when man and nature were truly connected. As I stood at an ancient stone marking sunrise at the summer solstice, I knew that more time "plugging myself in" out in the woods is exactly what I need.


This blog is part of the Ultimate Black Belt Test Program, which is an undertaking of The 100., and a part of Emerald Necklace Martial Arts in Boston, MA.