We evolved in nature, but so many aspects of our everyday lives are lived far away from anything natural. We live and work and commute in controlled environments our ancestors wouldn’t recognize. The rhythms of lives no longer revolve around the sun and the seasons, which makes us feel unusually productive. But it doesn’t always make us feel peaceful.
I grew up in a small town, and I took my easy access to nature for granted. I’ve been trying to make up for it since I realized how much better I feel when I’m outdoors regularly. So it makes sense that one of the themes of my own personal Best Summer List (which I wrote about earlier this week) was spending more time outside.
So when my friend Jo asked if I was up for making hiking a regular thing, I was all in. We made a list of some of the city and state parks near us and then (and this is the most important part) we didn’t even analyze them — we just went. Our first stop was Maplewood State Park near Pelican Rapids, where we covered six miles of trails on a beautiful summer afternoon and evening.
We started with a 400-foot climb to see the waters of Lake Lida glittering in one direction and the valley in another. A pair of tiny rabbits eyed me curiously as I started down the hill, sitting calmly an arm’s length away. I didn’t even see the white tailed deer until it was already bounding away from me.
We crossed through prairie grasses and sloughs. I pointed out cattails and loons, while Jo (an expert gardener) identified yarrow and morning glories, wild raspberries and Jacob’s ladder. (She’s an excellent hiking companion because she always teaches me something I didn’t know.)
Then we headed deep into the woods with the woodpeckers and tiny little frogs, where the light was dappled and the stillness was deep. Our companionable silence made me think of the poem “How I Go To The Woods,” by the incomparable Mary Oliver. It’s one of my favorites.
It’s so good, it’s worth posting here, along with a few more quotes about nature from artists and writers I love and more photos of park, since nature itself is infinitely more interesting than anything I could possibly write about it. I wish you lots of quiet moments in nature this season, immersed in the landscape that moves you the most.
“Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single
friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore
I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds
or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of
praying, as you no doubt have yours.
Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit
on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds,
until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost
unhearable sound of the roses singing.
If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love
you very much.”
“How I Go To The Woods”
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
“…I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?”
Vincent van Gogh
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
― Rachel Carson
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
“Time spent amongst trees is never wasted time.”
Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and it’s beauty.”
― Albert Einstein
“This life is yours. Take the power to choose what you want to do and do it well. Take the power to love what you want in life and love it honestly. Take the power to walk in the forest and be a part of nature. Take the power to control your own life. No one else can do it for you. Take the power to make your life happy.”
― Susan Polis Schutz
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.”
Photo by JoRelle Grover
What about you?
Which landscape moves you?
Where do you like to go to escape into nature?
What are your favorite places to hike?
Which writers, artists and thinkers echo your own thoughts about nature?
Which state or provincial park is your favorite?
What landscape do you want to explore next?
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Prairie Style File is curated by Alicia Underlee Nelson. All rights reserved.