I am lucky. I am lucky because I don’t have an office in the middle of a big city. My office window faces east onto the Northeast Arboretum. Now, don’t get too excited. This is not an extensive arboretum, but it’s just big enough to feel a little bit of an escape when you walk out there.
This week, I was instructed to take 1 hour out of my day to immerse myself in nature. It even specified to leave my phone inside. Whoa, right?! Well, being the fickle winter that it has been, I chose today to take the time. It was a balmy 37 degrees when I ventured outside into my office “backyard”. The nice thing about the arboretum is that there is a picnic table and bench out there; the perfect place to just sit. Since northeast Nebraska got quite a bit of snow last week, there was still about a six or seven untouched inches of snow on the ground. It’s a good thing I decided to wear boots today. I maneuvered my way down to the bench and immediately noticed the vast amounts of rabbit tracks. I started to wonder if they were all made by one rabbit or several. Oddly enough, there were also several spots where this rabbit, or family of rabbits, decided to stop to relieve themselves. The things you notice when you are by yourself in nature. I thought I should get my phone to take a picture, but alas, I did not have it. A mental picture would have to do.
As I sat down on the wooden bench, the slats gave way a little bit. I am not a large person, so I wondered how long this bench had been weathered to the point where it had started to weaken. I carefully leaned back and just started to listen. Despite the rural community where my office sits, I immediately heard the sound of cars. In a way, I was a little annoyed. Here I am, basically in the middle of nowhere, and all I can hear are cars! What’s more, the way the road winds through a few hills, you can hear the sound of a car coming and going for quite sometime even after it has passed. I must say, I was quite distracted by this sound. It seemed that every time it would finally get “quiet”, another vehicle would be coming. Not only that, the sound of tractors and agricultural equipment is an ever-present noise in rural Nebraska. This struck me a little bit. Even though I live in a “slower-paced” part of the state, people are still constantly coming and going. What would happen if we couldn’t drive around anymore? Like the citizens of Havana during the Peak Oil Crisis, would we be able to survive on transportation such as bicycles? I, for one, probably could not. Or else, I’d be in the best shape of my life! We do have quite a few hills that would have to be conquered in order to get from home to work and back!
I let these thoughts pass as I tried to concentrate on everything else around me. I closed my eyes and felt the crispness of the air. Is it possible for the air to smell crisp? The coat I was wearing didn’t quite cover the back of my neck, so the slight breeze felt like the cold that hits you when you open a refrigerator. I opened my eyes as I heard a lone bird fluttering around in the tree above me. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t find it when I looked up. I then heard the faint bark of a dog coming from the north.
I got up from the bench and walked to a few of the trees in the arboretum. Whenever someone retires, the Nebraska Forest Service plants a tree in their honor. It was interesting to walk around and see all the different trees planted for different people. I passed by one out there from 1963, 1993, and 2016. Which do you think should be the largest? The one from 2016 was actually quite large, so I wondered if it was planted as an “adolescent” rather than as a sapling. As I walked, I could hear the crunch of the snow under my boots. It seemed so loud and I tried to walk quieter. Unfortunately, I was interrupted by the smell of cigarette smoke. One of my co-workers smokes and she was having her usual after-work smoke before getting in her vehicle to return home. I moved back to my bench to attempt to avoid the smell that was ruining my nature experience.
As I completed my time outdoors, I thought to myself that this should be a daily occurrence. It might not always be possible to spend a whole hour, but then again, why not? Are we really THAT busy that we can’t take an hour out of our day to just sit outside? In the grand scheme of things, is one hour really going to affect a due date, deadline, or assignment.? I would say no. We have to get back to nature, even if that means one minute at a time. It is proven that nature is good for us; spiritually, emotionally, physically and mentally. As Richard Jurin in Principles of Sustainable Living: A New Vision for Health, Happiness, and Prosperity wrote, “If people continue to view themselves as above and separate from nature, then fundamentally different kinds of actions will ensue that are unsustainable and more destructive to the environment.”
I hope I can start taking back my nature experiences, one minute at a time.