I recently went hiking with a friend in the Angeles National Forest. We manage to get together on the trail about once a month. Our hikes are a great way to get out into nature – and to catch up, socialize, and solve the world’s problems. It was a perfect morning and we picked a great trail – a 10 mile out-and-back that promised spectacular vistas, pine forests, mountain geology - postcard quality stuff.
We were well along on our hike when we reached a signpost noting that we were 1.8 miles from our starting point. I also noted that I did not remember anything I had just seen or experienced on the trail in the past hour.
How often do we finally get a chance to be outdoors - but don’t show up? We’re busy talking, or tweeting, tinkering with our hi-tech gadgets, or thinking about that big project due soon, etc., etc. The body might be out on the trail, but the head – and sometimes the heart – are off in the ether somewhere. We conspire against ourselves in our distractions. We let our conversations transport us far, far away. Our cameras, phones, GPS’s, altimeter watches, and other gadgets take our eyes –and our minds – away from the task at hand: to enjoy time in – and with - the outdoors.
I mentioned my observation of my lack of observation to my friend. We shared a laugh – though a nervous one – and hit the reset button on our approach to the day. We kept up our conversations, but now it was nature that that was the distraction. For the rest of our hike we frequently interrupted each other with exclamations of “Wow! Check this out!” From views stretching literally hundreds of miles to the tiny purple wildflowers at our feet there was a treat at every bend in the trail. Both of us had plenty of time in the outdoors and had seen lots of amazing things. But still the sense of wonder and discovery came out. When we were here it was like we were seeing everything for the first time. And somehow we still managed to scratch a few of the world’s problems off our list.
I may be dating myself here, but there’s a Ram Dass book from the 70’s titled Be Here Now. Seems like good advice for our time in nature. So, I’m making a commitment to be more present in those precious times when I can be in and with the outdoors. This isn’t to take away from the great conversations, snapping that perfect picture, or the curiosity about how many miles hiked or feet climbed. That’s all part of it, but far from all of it, and certainly not the best part. I liked the sense of wonder and discovery that came from really being present with nature. What about you? Are you here yet?