By: Angela Capps
If you’re like me, the timeless metaphor, don’t forget to stop and smell the roses is something you often say casually or somewhat automatically. But do I ever stop and ask myself what that phrase really means? Do you? Do we ever stop and smell the roses? More than likely the answer is often no. Not as much as we’d like, anyway. How can we? It is hard enough to get laundry done. Then there is the packed lunches each day, plus the cleaning, the dog’s needs, and dozens of emails.
Ha! I will stop and smell the roses when I’m seventy-five. Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but honestly, it is how I feel. And I bet I am not alone.
Earlier this year I realized that something did not quite feel right. My days, the weeks – they were going by much too fast. When did life become an endless cycle of hurrying? I could win an award for fast paced multi-tasking. But why am I feeling a sense of hollow? And longing? Why am I always tense? I felt like I was speed walking through life, rushing to get every task accomplished. And if I did not, I felt disappointed. While I was thankful that I had the energy to do many things, it just felt like something was missing. After a long day of to-do’s, I had a consistent feeling at bedtime, a creeping, weighted feeling of defeat. Where was the balance? The idea of slowing down, doing less, well it just did not seem possible. There’s schoolwork, my job, bills, relationships, not to mention long term goals that need working on. But even with all my intentions good and my heart in the right place, there just wasn’t enough time to get it all done. How could I add more to the day and fit in nature?
Taking my kids on a hike through the forest, a walk on the beach or on a scenic boat ride was becoming more of a dreamy thought than an actual reality. I’m just too busy. We’ll stick to semi-annual camping trips and natural geographic T.V.
Oh! Wait! I’m human. My kids are human. We need nature. Nature is for everyone.
No wonder I have so many indoor plants and an array of artwork on my walls; sunflowers, mountains, wild horses, rivers, and lakes. I long for these things. My children do too. Nature is not something to cram in, it’s part of our lives. It is part of us. We live on Earth, a beautiful, magical, and mysterious place meant to be explored.
How do I fit it in? How do we all? Well, it starts with being honest. The list of to do’s, the multi-tasking, the endless chores, they’re not necessarily going anywhere. But we cannot simply do every little thing every single day. And as parents and people we will sometimes get overwhelmed. We can meditate, breathe deeply, and find other stress relieving activities, but we will most likely still have a long list of things to do.
So, you’re left with a simple solution. Nature is waiting for you, so go ahead. Just do it. It is just as important as everything else on your list. And it is okay. You are not neglecting your list, your to do’s or any of it. You are meant to live, enjoy life, absorb the outdoors. It is natural. You may even be surprised that you feel more accomplished in the day. I know I do. When I began taking time to spend in nature either on my own or with my children, something miraculous happened. All the things I had to do were still on my mind, but my priorities shifted. I began asking myself, Okay, what really needs to be done today? What can wait? What is truly important? What few things can I focus on, so I don’t feel too overwhelmed. I want to be productive, but also happier.
Spending time in nature, whether it be four hours a week or twelve hours a week, nourishes us. Breathing in fresh air can help us think more clearly, make healthier decisions, something all of us parents could benefit from, am I right? And you will find that your capacity to handle tasks becomes greater.
And there’s something else. You may realize your children are happier. They are naturally wild and free with bundles and bundles of energy. In nature, they can use that energy and be the natural explorers that they are. And you’re exercising! The hiking trail is longer than you thought, your kids want to climb to the top of the hill, so do you and before you know it- you’re wiping the sweat off your brow. You are walking miles, playing games, and running around. Instead of feeling exhausted at the end of the day, you feel renewed. Nature is funny that way.
And you will discover, just as I am that you learn as much as your children do. Poison oak looks like what again? Let’s find out. What do we do if we accidentally touch it?
What if we encounter a coyote? A mountain lion? A snake? A deer? How do we respond? And suddenly you realize your children are as enthusiastic about learning snake safety as they are their favorite superhero.
And you realize that anytime in nature is time well spent. The tension, and all the weight you carry somehow gets lifted. You notice the sycamore tree, how its leaves are large and soft. You notice the acorns falling from the oak tree, and the red-tailed hawk soaring above your head. You notice you feel more content, less overwhelmed and able to do more. You notice the wild plants as you walk past them, and you see the pink blossoms, loose and relaxed. And you stop and smell the roses.