I am a hunter of beauty and I move slow and I keep the eyes wide, every fiber of every muscle sensing all wonder and this is the thrill of the hunt and I could be an expert on the life full, the beauty meat that lurks in every moment.
— Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts
The preparation for a trip is hectic, rushing. Get everything packed the night before. Get enough, and more than enough, and remember all the details. Get the kids involved and bark orders and check items off lists. Usually we get to bed late. Then it’s waking up early, striving to get out the door, driving through legendary Seattle traffic, and fatigue before the adventure even starts.
At the trailhead, it’s the reorganizing, the packing up and putting on, the tidying and tucking and tying. There might be bickering or short tempers and I often wonder why I bother, and fume inside at how much work, how much time, this all takes. I feel restless, wanting to simply tie my own boots, shoulder my own pack and hike easy.
But then we walk. Then we breathe. We start to look up from ourselves, look around, and notice. Slowly we enter into a different kind of time. We see the flowers: bold and bright in sun, or shy under leaves near the ground. We notice the leaves themselves, green – newly sprouted, broad and full, or changing into autumn’s celebratory wardrobe. We look up and cast our gaze far, to mountain crags and sky, and wilderness all around. We hear birds and try to identify them. We imitate, and laugh at ourselves or find ourselves impressed when someone gets the sound right. Time gains a new quality and the day fills with enough.
Our days at home, like most families’, are brimming with tasks to do and places to be. School studies, housework, friendships, church, sports, meals, and finally crashing into bed at the end of hectic days. We yearn for enough – enough time, enough energy, enough space to live our lives. On our hikes, we switch gears, and I believe that is part of why we come back refreshed. When we strip away the striving of life, the slave-driver of a To-Do List, the segmented hours, we can move into a mindset of watchfulness and expectation. The clock slows.
It seems to me that children move naturally in this other time zone. We can return to it when we slow down and notice. As adults we might have to practice noticing, practice seeing the intricate details of moss, the patterns of needle arrangements on evergreen trees, the structure of flower blossoms and ephemeral leaves. A camera on a macro setting or a hand lens can help, but the more often we try to really see, the more natural it becomes. And something mysterious happens when we slow down and notice. We feel calmer, fuller, more satisfied.
Now the challenge becomes to take that attitude and awareness back home with us. To notice the beauty in the everyday. To slow enough in the rushing torrent of schedule that we catch the moments of glory all around us. Is it possible? Can a walk in nature really teach me how to have enough time in the other parts of my life? I believe it can. I believe the skill of noticing insects and flowers and colorful rocks can transfer to noticing a child’s soft smile, a spouse’s burdens of the day, a home’s tasks that satisfy. I believe this latent skill can help me change my perspective from that of harried mom to one of calm and focused beauty-seeker. It is a bit of a mystery how that works. I’m trying to learn it more.
Jennifer Johnson tries to create reflective time in nature whenever she can. Nature and knitting have kept her sane through homeschooling and motherhood. Usually her two kids are with her, and together they explore the Pacific Northwest. She’s also known as The Hiker Mama, and writes about their adventures at thehikermama.com.