There is a song written by John Cage called 4’33” (4 minutes 33 seconds). I would normally provide a link so you can hear the piece but in this case I won’t. And I’ll tell you why – there is no music. This piece was written to showcase the sounds you would hear from an audience. Rustling of chairs, shifting of bodies, ringing of cell phones, whispers, and any other sound you might hear during a performance. He was making a point that all sound is music.
I was thinking about this piece yesterday as Sweet Girl and I were enjoying one of the last days of beautiful weather. We spent most of the day outside just walking around at the lake across from our apartment. For the first part of the outing Sweet Girl was wandering around, checking out everything around her, and I was glancing at my phone looking at Facebook and Twitter. About halfway through our time outside I realized that I was missing so much. Just watching my toddler explore this world is eye-opening. I think a lot of times we take for granted all the wonderful things nature has to offer. The gentle (or gusty, as it was yesterday) winds blowing across your face, the rustle of leaves on the trees, the silence that speaks volumes. When I finally put my phone down and saw the world as my daughter does I was in awe.
Everything had new meaning. Nothing was taken for granted.
With the internet taking over everything – wifi, social media, emails, computers – we are forgetting what it was like to spend time outside. We are forgetting the beauty that was given to us long ago. I know how hard it can be to get outside. Living in an apartment definitely makes it more of a struggle. I have to plan my outings because I don’t have a backyard to sit in at the end of the day. When I was working two jobs I didn’t want to do anything when I was home. I wanted to curl up on the couch and watch Netflix and just completely zone out.
But I was reminded today that nature can rejuvenate us better than any number of hours spent on the couch or in bed with the internet. I was reminded of my time in Ireland when all I did was spend time outdoors experiencing the beautiful green lands and people watching (my favorite thing to do). I thought about the small town (maybe a couple hundred people) of Rathdrum in County Wicklow that I stayed in for about 5 days. There was a protected forest within walking distance of my hostel and I spent an entire day just walking around, admiring the trees and trails, the babbling brook (or river? I never know the difference) and the giant rock structure overlooking miles of Irish fields. That day will always be burned into my memory and I am grateful for that. It is that day that helps me remember how beautiful nature is, how relaxing and rejuvenating it is for body, mind, and soul.
I may not live near any protected forests or any mountains. But that doesn’t mean the nature I have right outside my window isn’t enough. Sweet Girl and I love walking through the neighborhoods surrounding our complex to help us feel a little more connected with the world around us. It can be hard to remember there are other people (which is ironic) when you live in an apartment. People tend to stay to themselves. So it’s nice to stroll through those neighborhoods because we’ll often pass someone outside working on the house or yard and have a small exchange.
In our ever-advancing society it is difficult sometimes to completely disconnect. It seems that our lives are overrun with the need to keep people up-to-date on our every move. We feel a responsibility to be on call 24 hours a day and answer texts and emails without hesitation. It is so easy to get sucked into this mentality. I’ve noticed, in the past, that when I allowed technology to take over and let myself feel that need to be a constant presence on social media I get overwhelmed and anxiety starts to take over. And then I get angry and take out that anger on those closest to me. What I’ve found since having Sweet Girl, and also putting more effort into spending quality time outside, is that I am less stressed. My relationships with those closest to me are less strained. I am able to be much more pleasant with my family. And I can honestly say it is because I have stopped to smell the roses, as it were.
Nature provides us with so much – sunlight for Vitamin D, trees for oxygen, plants for medicine. It also shows us the beauty in silence, if only we stop to listen.