This weekend, I took a much-needed respite from New Jersey, end-of-year school minutiae, and general modern angst. Normally, I don’t like to travel on Memorial Day, but my body and mind were yearning from green. While most of New Jersey headed for the shore this holiday weekend, my husband and I planned a four day get-away to Vermont. The traffic was non-existent. Everyone was headed in the opposite direction. We zipped up the New York State Thruway and onto the beautiful scenic backroads of Vermont.
Mountains rose up all around us, and I instantly felt at peace. This is where my mind and body belong – up among the green and growing – deep in the green valley protected by the tall mountains all around. I feel safe here. I feel like I can finally let down my defenses and lay down my cares. I meditate on one rolling mountain after another like giant green waves lulling me into a restful state. “Relax… breathe…rest,” is my mantra. I vow to let go this weekend, to not check social media, stay away from cellphones, laptops, and televisions. I just want to be present to nature.
One day of our adventure, we drove from the Green Mountains into the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Again, we took scenic backroads, past red barns, meadows of wildflowers and fields dotted with cows, sheep, horses, and goats. Little sleepy town greeted us with good coffee, farm-fresh food, and country hospitality. Spring in the mountains is opposite of the rush of New Jersey. I longed to stroll along the hiking paths of the Kancamagus Highway. We went to numerous favorite spots and arrived in the late afternoon at Sabbaday Falls. This is a mile hike to a gorgeous waterfall. I love this place. I once came face to face with a moose here. Everyone on the trail stood frozen in suspense. I looked up and saw this gorgeous creature and smiled, “ Oh, you are beautiful,” I told him quietly. Our eyes met, and I thought I saw an appreciative smile before he bent his enormous head down towards new-green leaves. I continued on my way, changed. I encountered one of God’s remarkable creations, saw him close-up in nature. What an honor! Having experiences like these in the wild, I believe, is essential to everyone’s health and well-being. As Richard Louv notes in his book, Last Child in the Woods, “Progress does not have to be patented to be worthwhile. Progress can also be measured by our interactions with nature and its preservation. Can we teach children to look at a flower and see all the things it represents: beauty, the health of an ecosystem, and the potential for healing? ”
All that go-and-do exhausts our senses, and we need to get back to the woods to regain our balance. Since I learned last year of the Japanese practice of “Forest Bathing” to reduce stress and maintain a strong relationship with nature, I have reminded myself of the importance that the natural world has on mankind. I am fortunate to live in an area with access to forests, swamps, farmland, and meadows. And I’m doubly fortunate to have the resources to travel periodically to beautiful wild places.
So as I walk along the riverside path, up and up and up to Sabbaday Falls, I soak in all I see: water cascading over river rocks, trees clinging to the side of steep cliffs, and above me a lush canopy of green. I am surrounded by beauty. It is easy to feel calm here. I float on this current of green. Listen to the thunder of the waterfall, the gurgle of the river, and the songbirds’ lilting tunes. I try to capture this moment of peace with my camera. I focus and shoot all along the path wrapping myself in the healing powers of the forest.