Powering Down in Nature

On Thursdays, the daily round brings “fresh bed day” for the Full Moon Cottage 2-leggeds. (4-leggeds’ beds are cleaned on Fridays. I’m not sure they appreciate this, but my allergies do.)

This morning, I caught myself folding sheets and pillowcases as an Olympic contender, going for the gold, timing myself and offering color commentary regarding the elegance, choreography and precision of the folds. It amused me, but also told me it was time to turn off the Olympics and go for my walk.

A few nights ago we watched the movie Greenfingers, a wonderful testament to the ways gardening can be transformative and healing. The story is based on the true experiences of prisoners in HMP (Her Majesty’s Prison) Leyhill, a minimum-security prison in the Cotswold’sEngland. At first indifferent to the suggestion they participate in gardening, a group of prisoners eventually creates a garden, and then competes in a prestigious garden design competition.

As their connection with the earth evolves, each man gains a wider view regarding his gifts and opportunities for naming his presence in the world. They learn that they can choose new ways to show up for their lives. Capacities for surprise, for delight, for love and relationship have been nurtured by engagement with the earth.

Earlier in the week, we’d watched part of Ken Burns’ excellent program for PBS, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. The title is taken from a quote by Wallace Stegner, and the program reinforces the wisdom of those who fought long and hard to establish the national park system, arguing for the deep healing that gently entering and embracing wilderness offers humanity. Not unexpectedly, lobbyists, corporate interests, and politicians wanted to commercialize, mine, and deforest every square inch of the acreage that became our national parks, and it often seemed they would. Thankfully, in the end, the National Parks were established, but the threats from those who would exploit them continue to merit vigilance.

These programs reinforced something I’ve always known, and I expect it’s true for most people: solitude in natural settings is deeply healing and over time, transformative. Our own wild hearts find solace in the garden, the forest, along the seashore, and river. A few hours spent tending plants and weeding a garden can offer deep peace to the spirit. We reconnect with those dreams and truths we bury so quickly when faced with the outer entanglements and accelerated speed of life; in nature, we slow down enough to finally hear our song and bring it back into tune.

I don’t “power walk.” I stroll with my camera, treating the walk as a long, silent meditation. I stop at trail benches to sit and breathe in the smells and sounds. While I believe physical exertion and aerobic exercise are rewarding and certainly contribute to my health, I don’t think every activity that invites my physical engagement has to be dominated by an aggressive need to exaggerate effort, compete, speed, and hurl myself through the experience. In fact, I suspect the need to “power-up” is sometimes related to an inability to slow down, to be still, to breathe mindfully and to listen deeply. And our old friend, fear, can sabotage our need to be still: What if we don’t like what we, finally, hear? What if, when we arrive at our center, there’s no there there? Or even more disturbing, what if the voice at our center tells us we must change to save our life and fulfill its purpose?

Of course, when we let go and journey to the center, the likely result is the gift of gentle messages from Love, but we may certainly encounter truths along the way that are painful.  I’ve found that “staying with” the journey transmutes the pain. Exposing it to the light and restorative power of nature dissolves the accrual of spiritual disturbance that builds up between walks. The more personal power I surrender, the more deeply nature’s power washes my spirit clean.

Today, I let go of all those ever-present inner voices and listened to the songs of the wind, rain, trees, birds, and turtles, and my own song and energy were guided back into clarity. I doubt gardening or walking into the woods and meeting stillness, silence, and listening will ever be Olympic events, but in the end, they offer the spirit treasures more precious than gold.



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14 thoughts on “Powering Down in Nature

  1. Ah, another breath of renewal and quiet contemplation here Catherine. Thank You! As I studied each photo I was met with the promise that Mother Earth will always prevail…I only hope that humans can wake up and realize that. I think part of being a good steward is the medicine we inhale when sitting in the stillness of the forest floor, the sitting by water’s edge, the planting of a seed and nurturing it as well…as you say, ‘bring it back into tune.’

    Did you get some life-giving rain today? We received a good amount and I am so very grateful. I continue to chant, sing, pray, for good cleansing rains for all of our parched land.

    Be well Sister Soul, You and Yours!
    Mitakuye Oyasin,


    1. Good medicine, indeed; I agree. Mother Nature will likely outlast us, but we lose so many gifts by not honoring and collaborating with her, don’t we?

      Yes, Blessed rain fell and the earth all around Full Moon is shiny and happy, that’s for sure…

      Thank you, Akasa, for your visits and for your deep commitment to the earth and her children.
      Mitakuye Oyasin,


  2. What a beautifully written post – and I love the photo’s! I can only wholeheartedly agree with what you say. Nature and the Earth herself are extremely healing! 🙂


  3. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? Guess all I can say is coming here to read your posts is such a wonderful journey into heart and mind. I always leave thinking about something and feeling a bit changed. Thanks Catherine. How is the frog btw???? VK


  4. Oh, VK; you are a joy, and thank you. The frog is well; the turkeys are growing; the lovely trio of ducks lost their eggs to the fox or a raccoon and the ducks moved along up the river. I miss them. The crows are as insistent as ever, and BobTail, the squirrel visits daily…he likes to pause and meditate after dining: I just love him. We have sparrowhawks diving around the yard every morning so the birds seem to value the trees near the feeders as places of safety…the circle of life dances on…Peace to your day!


  5. I’m learning with greater clarity that it sometimes takes as much to go deep within and let each footstep kiss the earth in silent meditation in a walk through the woods as it is for Usain Bolt to rip to the finish line in the 100m. It’s been a beautiful pleasure visiting you here Catherine and looking at the startlingly gorgeous and serene photos from your walk. With many warm wishes from Finland, Sharon


  6. How wonderful to have you visit and share your thoughts, Sharon: welcome! I agree; our outward actions and inward connections both require mindful tending to help us “be” and make choices that are integrated and harmonious. I couldn’t fully live into my life without my time in the woods, on the path…when I’ve missed my walks, my energy becomes tumbled and dissonant, so I’ve learned that, like meditation, my daily food must include time outdoors.

    I’ve enjoyed looking through your own sensitive blog and stunning photographs: happy synchronicity, as I was looking at pictures of Finland earlier today, and searching Finnish names for a novel! I’ll look forward to your posts. 🙂


  7. Catherine, thank you for words that were just what I needed to read. As I begin to “rev up” for the coming semester, I also realize that I need to keep balance with the natural flow of things. Thank you for the reminder to stroll instead of “power walk” 🙂


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