There is nothing I enjoy more than spending time outdoors. I savor the quiet time, at first getting lost in thought and then letting them all fade away. Being in nature always makes me calm and serene. When I come back from long hikes or runs, people often remark that I look happier. There is something transformative about this time alone in the wild.
A Field in Denver, Colorado. January 2014.
It’s difficult to put into words what I see and how it makes me feel. For many years, I tried to capture my experience with photography. Today, however futile my attempt may be, I feel the need to speak about what the experience is like for me.
An Alleyway in Pennsylvania. March 2013.
Walking alone gives me time to observe the external world. Most of the time, I want to be outdoors to escape the thoughts in my mind. It’s so easy for me to get swept away by worry and doubt. Lately, my concerns have been focused on money. It feels like I’m always scraping to get by. I scrutinize every dollar I spend. My social life is far from the glitzy fantasies that a Manhattan address may evoke.
The Last Leaves. February 2014.
Like so many other people, I wonder how I’ll every pay off my student loans. I criticize myself for not having understood what I was doing to my financial future at 22, when graduate school was so appealing and the economy was more stable. Thankfully, I have a wonderful job and a plan to fix the mistakes that I’ve made. But staying positive can be challenging. The smallest event can carry me far, far away on a trail of self-loathing and doubt.
Worrying doesn’t change the situation. It doesn’t make my payoff date come closer. Instead, it takes me away from the peace I can experience now. We’ve all done this. We’ve somehow told ourselves that happiness, peace, and success are only allowed after completing some far off task. But experiencing peace is really a daily choice. It shouldn’t be delayed.
A Walk in Central Park. April 2014.
Being outdoors reminds me of what is really important. It reminds me how precious time is. I notice how everything changes based on the time of day. The amount and intensity of light changes through the day. This makes the environment change colors. The way I feel in the environment in the morning versus dusk is so different.
Seeds of Spring. December 2013.
My walks start out very simply. I just try to listen to as many noises as possible. The sound of my feet hitting the ground. The whisper of my own breath. Birds chirping. The wind rustling through the trees. The focus on sound inevitably brings my attention to the beauty of my surroundings.
Blossoms. April 2014.
I take the time to look at all the details around me. The way the light hits a flower. How an overcast sky turns pastel as I gaze up at a tree in full bloom. Seeing delicate petals flutter in the cool breeze of a spring day.
Delicate Petals. April 2014.
Seeing this way starts to spill over into my ordinary day. For my 30th birthday, I went to Colorado to visit friends and family. It was such a wonderful trip. The weather was perfect. I was happy to spend time with people who are important to me. We spent half a day skiing in Vail. Every view was exhilarating. But the really special moments had something in common: something very subtle would catch my eye, like:
Skiing in Vail, Colorado. January 2014.
a flickering light . . .
Snowfall in Central Park. February 2014.
a gust of wind that blew powdery snow on my shoulder . . .
Snowfall in the Forest. March 2014.
the warm feel of the sun hitting my cheeks on a winter day. These small queues snap me out of routine and thought. I shift my attention. Then I grab my camera as fast as I can to capture the moment. How I feel in the moment has no words. But the picture can capture it more completely.
The Reservoir in Central Park. February 2013.
Now that spring has finally warmed up to us, I’m feeling optimistic. The beauty of nature reminds me that problems are temporary, just like the seasons. It seems like a great time to stop doubting, to believe in something new. Forget about time, go outside, and take flight.
Flight. October 2012.
Happy Earth Day!