When I taught sophomores in highschool, they were not excited when I told them we would be reading the poetry of Emily Dickinson...Boring...but when I started the unit by playing "Rocky Mountain High" by John Denver and explaining to them that he felt the same way about Colorado and the natural world as Dickinson did about her backyard in Massachusetts, they began talking about things they loved in life and the natural world. The "old recluse" herself was high on life.
I love long early summer afternoons when the grass is green and the flowers are blooming and there is a cool breeze. Just to sit by a lake with a good book and some music playing, to me, is like heaven on earth. Sitting in my backyard with my pets, my daughter and granddaughter sipping lemonade makes me feel "inebriated on air" also.
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Flowing water gives me this experience, be it a river, a stream, a lake or the Pacific Ocean (sorry, the Atlantic along Maine just puzzled me). [More about me than is desired] when in the presence of this force, I burst into song. Most awkward if I'm actually trying to have a conversation with someone. It feels to me like I'm enveloped in a cloud of sound and my song is a harmony line to the water's melody. I feel elevated and made part of something far greater than the visible elements. The foliage seems both participant and audience for the song. The roaring wind at the seaside fills the participant and audience role.
I find nature invigorating too, but I also really enjoy the companionship of my friends and some members of my family. I can be really tired, but hanging out with them cheers me up. I also really enjoy a good book, movie, or television show. Actually, now that I think about it I find enotes very invigorating!
I love visiting a local state park less than a mile from my house in Florida. It was founded by the explorer Juan Ponce DeLeon and has been maintained in a very natural setting (aside from the concrete wall that surrounds the natural spring). My favorite visits are on bad weather days: No one else is around, and I can enjoy the birds, fish, rain, wind and vegetation all by myself with no other noises or distractions. The perfect solitude is amazing, and I can just picture the Timucuan Indians who used to inhabit the area lingering by the spring; or imagine DeLeon's conquistadors' happiness at discovering such a beautiful spot after hiking for hundreds of miles through the humid Florida heat in their armor. The spring water (believed to be the "Fountain of Youth" by DeLeon) is rejuvenating to the body, and the beauty of the land and waterway is uplifting to the spirit.
In days gone by I have achieved that "runner's high" mentioned above, but only after I became a disbeliever in it. belarafon keep going! Truly it is a sublime feeling; one runs without even sensing the feet touching the earth. Engaging in aerobic exercise seems to be the best way to achieve an "inebriation" since in the process of running/walking/exercising there is an ascendancy of the mind in which thoughts reach a higher level along with the heartbeat. Add this physical experience to the setting of a beautiful woods, mountain, lake, etc. and voila!
Now, another creature does the running for me. On horseback, one can fly without leaving the earth. An exhilirating moment when that 1 horsepower ascends a hill with the natural power of muscle and equine magnificence.
I used to feel that way about martial arts. I was a student of a local club for almost sixteen years before college and jobs made it all-but impossible to continue. Looking back, I was very young and very emotional, but I was able to express a lot of my adolescent emotional issues through practice and sparring. It was a lot of fun, and for a long time I attended four classes per week, no exceptions; I once drove through a blizzard and ended up being one of two students who showed up. We got a lot of personal attention that day. These days I get somewhat of an emotional high from finishing a project, but I am so scatterbrained that I rarely finish anything significant; I had a great emotional high when I had stories accepted for professional publication. This month, I resolved to start exercising again and I have been walking and jogging; I have never achieved the legendary runner's high, but I figure that with some practice and the slow buildup of endurance and stamina, I might get there someday.
Simply sitting outside with a nice cup of hot coffee after supper, with my wife, and looking out at, and hearing, the variety of birds that visit our backyard each day is something wonderful and refreshing. I write each day in front of a computer in my home office; the chance to get outside into the fresh air and enjoy nature is relaxing and invigorating at the same time. I love the landscaping of our property with its lush grass, plants, shrubs, and trees, as well as the sound of the breeze as it rustles the leaves. I love the red maple tree in our backyard and the Japanese maple in our front yard. All in all, I can identify with how Emily Dickinson felt, and how the individual who wrote Post #2 felt as they enjoyed the outdoors.
Until I became a classroom teacher, all of my jobs were such that I worked primarily outside. I was a ropes course director and camp counselor for many summers, and then my first "real" job was working with at-risk youth in a wilderness camp setting. We literally lived outside.
I can't even describe how much I miss those jobs. Despite the relative mental and emotional difficulty of working with such students at the wilderness camp, I can see now that I was physically and mentally very healthy in that job, and I credit that mostly to the fact that we were working outdoors. For me, it was being able to retreat from technology, driving, electronic "noise," and the rush of functioning inside society's fast paced schedule. In the woods, the only limitations on our time were those that came directly from our group. We worked in 100+ degree temps, rain, snow, and wind. I slept better than I've ever slept in my life when my body was directly in tune with sunrise and sunset.
There is something inherently natural and compelling about getting outside, literally, of the hustle and bustle of an indoor schedule.
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