We go outside to breathe, because it's so hard to breathe these days. The radio is a constant source for sadness. Somebody's always killing somebody else. I never got whatever was supposed to inoculate me against the evening news. I don't have the kind of armor you need to hear those stories and then keep walking without a limp. Pieces of me crumple up. I feel like one big bruise.
We go outside to hear the wind in the grass and the birds in the trees. We plop our bodies down on piles of decomposing leaves, our backs against a dead log. "These are trees that fell down," I tell my daughter. "They fall down to the ground and their bodies become dirt again, and then new things can grow here. That's what happens when something dies. It goes back to the earth."
We go outside to go back to the earth. To connect with a thing, you touch it, you don't shrink back in disgust. You embrace it and let it have every side of you. We roll around in the leaves and the grass and let bugs crawl across our shoulders because we don't mind getting dirty. We drop food on the ground and eat it anyway. There's dust in our hair, and our fingernails turn black.
We go outside to be alone, to be away, to be together. To conquer challenges: I carried her to the top of that hill. She climbed up and over that log. We feel ourselves strong, our bodies moving, our hearts pumping, our breath coming in heaves. Nature will not let you transmute this feeling of strength into pride. There are enormous, ancient trees lying dead at the top of the hill.
We go outside to walk without destination, to leave footprints in the mud. To pound the ground our ancestors walked. To find something unexpected at the top of the hill: a copse of aspens, a whirling hawk, a running brook. We remind ourselves that anything could be behind the next big bend. We remind ourselves that we only control so much--the movement of our own feet, and even that is not consistently true, because sometimes our toes catch on rocks and we fall. We feel large, and then we feel small.
We go outside to walk so we can think, like Kierkegaard said. There's too much space, outdoors, for thoughts to collect and swirl around and drown you. Your thoughts can run linearly. They flow out of you, and down the hill, like the water. The bad ones flow away from you. The good ones circle back.
We go outside to feel the blood in our veins flow slower. To heal the parts of us that feel heavy, pulling off our balance. Nature pushes us back to equilibrium. Its hugeness. Its details. Its cycles, apparent everywhere.
But mostly, we go outside to breathe. Just to breathe.
The Golden Gleam