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R & R in Nature

Sometimes life is a little bit too much to handle, and stress starts to build up in my body. I feel it in my shoulders, in my legs, and in my attitude. I become restless and cranky. The four walls and ceiling above my head start to close in around me and I feel cramped. Whenever I feel this way, I put on my hiking boots, grab my water bottle, and find a nearby trail worth exploring.

As soon as I step out of my car, I feel excited and a slight sense of relief washes over me. I look at the nature around me, whether it’s rich forests or mountainous desert landscape, and take it all in. I deeply breathe in and release. I feel ready to let go of what ails me and begin to take on what wonders and challenges I find on the trail ahead of me.

When I hike, I lose myself in my own thoughts. I sort out the information that has been crowding around my mind and release all the anger and tension with each stride I take. Eventually, all the negative energy has melted away, and I become so in-tune with putting one foot in front of the other that it is almost meditative. My only focus is taking the next step and breathing in and breathing out. I don’t mind the sweat rolling down my back and the aches starting in my legs. I am no longer confined. There are no walls around me. The sky is my ceiling. I am free.

View from the Hunter Creek Trailhead

I felt this way recently when I hiked along the Hunter Creek trail on the outskirts of Reno. I was surrounded by rolling desert hills, and below me was an oasis of green which surrounded a rushing waterway. Out on this trail, I found peace, beauty, and openness. All my worries and stresses did not matter here. I stopped at a high point on the trail and gazed over the valley. I realized Reno and everything that was causing my stress seemed small and miles away.

City of Reno in the Distance

Every time I stopped for a drink of water on the trail, my focus shifted and slowed down. It was when this happened that I noticed all the life which was happening around me. Scrub-jays hopped from one branch to another, chirping at each other. Squirrels rushed through sagebrush and cautiously watched me. Grasshoppers danced around my feet and at the trail’s edge. With all this life and all this noise, I did not hear a single human voice or man-made sound besides my own footsteps.

Scrub-Jay on a Branch

I was surrounded by noisy life occurring on many different scales. Instead of thinking of my own struggles while on my water breaks, I was just observing others. Through doing this and meditatively hiking, I got the feeling that everything was going to be okay.

A Note from the Author: This blog post was done in a style known as ‘nature writing,’ a form of prose which is based around close observation and awe of the environment. This blog was inspired by the book A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard.

Contributing Writer: Jessica Andreone

Photos: Jessica Andreone

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