A Nature-Made Mental Health Day
My friend and I had gone to Springfield to spend the day with our college-aged kids, but no definitive plan had been decided. Icy drizzle limited us to an indoor activity for our visit, so we crossed off an outing to the World’s Largest Fork. (Yes, this is an actual attraction in Springfield, and yes, I would love to see what it looks like). After weighing our options for the Saturday afternoon before us, we decided to visit the Wonders of Wildlife Aquarium at Bass Pro Shops.
The Wildlife Aquarium at the museum has a 1.5-million-gallon aquarium that features 35,000 live fish, but there are also quite a few reptiles and birds sprinkled into the galleries. Coming out of the swamp exhibit, I saw the above quote displayed on a sign. The words are attributed to John Muir, known as a Scottish naturalist and preservationist who lived during the late 1800s. As I wandered with our group throughout the exhibits, this quote stood out to me. I loved the visual of how all of nature is knitted together, as if connecting everything with a single thread. Just a little tug, a little awareness, and all things come together into focus.
I’d had my phone out the entire visit, and even though it was being used as a camera, it made me realize how even the simple joy of witnessing nature was connected to some kind of technology for me. There are times I am trying so hard to document an experience that I forget to actually live the experience as it’s happening. I continued to take pictures for the rest of the galleries, but I made it a point to try to make the photography secondary to what I was seeing and who I was with at the moment.
It was nice to not have a packed schedule for the day, just a late breakfast with the kids, an aquarium visit done at a leisurely pace and plenty of good conversation. The weather wasn’t getting any better, and we didn’t want to get back home too late, so after a coffee stop we called it a day, gave the kids hugs and headed home.
I like to believe that the “single tug at nature” process had begun. I suppose that once Mother Nature decided she had my attention with her beauty, she decided it was time to show me her power. That Saturday, Nature was the one that had the power to make me quit rushing through things and stop to take a breath.
The freezing drizzle continued for the first part of the trip, but the roads were drivable. As we continued down I-44, the windshield wipers were having a hard time keeping up with the precipitation. Even with the temperature and the defroster blower on high, layers of ice began creeping across the windshield. Then there were a couple of patches on the road that were sketchy. Tractor trailer trucks either blew past us at normal highway speed or crept slowly along on the hills as the daylight started to fade.
Any Missourian will tell you that snow is something a driver can reason with; ice is not. With this in mind, we decided to listen to nature and stopped to spend the night at hotel rather than risk the ice.
Sometimes the To Do List needs to balance with the To Live list. Instead of a white-knuckled drive home, I was able to spend time with a friend, enjoying a meal and relaxing with a bottle of wine, talking and laughing over YouTube videos and even getting a little work done, too. (Yes, technology manages to be a part of my nature-scape.)
I’m not sure John Muir envisioned the world as a place where getting a glimpse at nature takes as much effort as it does, but surely he saw how appreciating it needed to be intentional. I doubt he would have guessed how much competition would be out there in our modern-day lives. On most days I must admit I am guilty of being more dependent on my phone to get me through my day than a spectacular view of mysterious-looking jellyfish.
Thank goodness there are some fantastic nature screen savers out there.