By: Sandy Churchill
We know that nature abounds with opportunities for exercise and fresh air, but what about the gifts of stress relief, peaceful connection, and pure joy?
On a recent bout with an incredibly stubborn bronchial infection I have maintained my near-daily, two-mile walks, regardless of wind, rain, fog, and hail. I didn’t say ‘snow’ yet—but in New England, we know it is simply a matter of time.
Despite slowing down during the sick days and working less, these walks became a much-anticipated pleasure that offered far more than blood-sugar-dropping power and heart-healthy benefits. My son, as my frequent travel companion, is a wonderful conversationalist—sharing everything from much-anticipated movies he wants to see to the latest twists and turns in favorite book releases—to “what-if?” philosophy ponderings.
He is also gloriously content in the silence—something I have yet to master. But my hoarse voice forced me into minimal conversation at best—and we glimpsed the world around us, changing day to day as winter envelopes in the surrounding forest.
Morning dew had frozen to shimmering diamonds, tree-limbs had surrendered the last slips of gold and crimson, and secret nests were now revealed for the world to see. I could feel my breathing slow down to the rhythm of nature around me, and literally feel stress melting away.
There was an intentionality to each moment, simply noticing nature’s gifts, unhurried, and purposeful. There’s something special in savoring a moment—and nature offers an optimum opportunity for heightened awareness, reflection, and appreciation.
Nobody at our house is a huge fan of winter, but we are not die-hard summer enthusiasts either. In our family, winter is simply another of our amazing seasons, sure to contain gifts of its own. Truly, the cold has never been the spirit-killing burden for me. It’s the waning light, lengthy hours of darkness, and near-monochrome days where grey prevails and so little color offers banners of hope and wonder outside.
But these jaunts into nature, up close with pine branches and frozen fields, offered a whisper of encouragement to slow down, embrace the present, and breathe in a sense of surrendering to the beauty and joy right here, at this singular moment in time.
Inward, I composed a prayer of gratitude. Thank you dear nature for your gifts that continue to bless this earth and this traveler who is immensely grateful for your amazing blessing of peace and grace.