When I was a boy I often visited the woods behind my parent's home. I was blessed to live in the hills of Los Gatos, California. There were many oak trees and thickets to explore. I had erected a makeshift tree house beside a large oak tree. It was my favorite tree. I used to scale that tree high into it's upper canopy.
Once I reached the top, I could see beyond the tree line into the distant canyon. I would sit between two large branches, close my eyes and gently sway to the breeze. I loved the sound of the leaves rustling. The song of birds. Despite a wonderful home life, I found solitude and peace in the woods. Sitting in the tranquil sway of tree top limbs. Gentle, late afternoon breeze blowing through my hair.
This was well before the Internet era. There were no cell phones beckoning. No iPads glowing or laptops recharging. Before email and text messages, podcasts and the relentless noise of the digital age. And yet, I still sought moments of quiet. Private escapes into the woods to commune with nature. Serene afternoons to relax, think and be in the moment.
I don't know what compelled me to seek those times alone. But I discovered at a young age the power of solitude. I found that being outdoors, by myself, allowed a sort of peace to come over me. My thoughts wandered, creative ideas would sometimes manifest, and I frequently emerged from the woods with a sense of restoration and renewal.
I think we need that today, more than ever. Staring at glowing devices before bed is not restful. Navigating traffic while chattering on a hands free cell phone can be hectic. Relentless review of social media accounts and text messages is not relaxing. All of these tools and devices may have their purpose and improve efficiency in our work and lives. But they disconnect us to real life. To the present moment.
I took my dogs for a walk today. Afterward, I sat in my backyard garden. A small wren darted in and out of the bird house my wife placed under the eave of our roof. Last year a couple of chickadees nested there and raised little ones. Now the wren has set up shop. She's been busy flying nest materials in. Soon, she'll settle down and we'll hear the high pitched chirps of newly hatched chicks.
In this busy age and frenetic pace, it's easy to miss the small miracles of nature. My advice is to slow down. Get outside, listen and watch. Take frequent walks. There is nature out there, quietly unfolding as it has for eons.
If you make the time for solitude, you'll be witness to nature's beauty and inspiring renewal. And this will restore your spirit, reclaim your optimism and fuel your creativity. So the next time you're stressed, spent and down, get outside and seek a little solitude. It will do wonders for you.