Michael Hill wrote this beautiful comment to the previous post on walking (juggling) in beauty, and I wanted it to be my first guest blog.
While I retired from the “hectic” life not yet five years ago, when I look back on it, it is but a tiny speck in the far-away distance of the past. Actually, I learned early on of the detriments of an over-busy life some years before I retired and moved to expand and enhance my already regular and varied times in beauty. I suppose growing up along the coast in California in the 50s and 60s did provide a pretty good setting for learning to appreciate the best in life.
During my fifty years of work life, I have always taken my vacations, planning for them well in advance so I always got the days off I wanted along with good seats on my flights and keys for the asked-for favorite accommodations. I learned early on the value of stepping out of life’s way to “restore rhythm and balance.” I appreciate reminders about the need to “take some time off” and the value of doing that. Throughout my workdays, I always knew that on the calendar there were days ahead that were highlighted to mean “v-a-c-a-t-i-o-n”.
Living in Santa Monica, California a mere six blocks from the beautiful blue Pacific, I always recognized that wide expanse where the sky met the sea at the horizon as an easily available refuge for my soul. It is filled with a great panoply of nature’s beauties – the crunchy dry sand and that moist, dig-your-toes in type at water’s edge; the waves at one time calm and in others a great maelstrom, and I would be seriously remiss to omit the beach sunsets. It was always a joy to see so many people come out and watch them; and to also notice that depending on the season, how the sun set over the mountains in winter, then to the last point of land in spring, then through the summer into the sea, and then in fall, head back north. And late afternoon fall light is heavenly as is watching the light break through the clouds after a winter’s storm or watching the rain over the ocean as it moves toward shore; beauty surrounded me and I knew it.
Now add to that setting the nearby Santa Monica Mountains with their miles of trails and spectacular views of that same Pacific Ocean; the walks through rolling hills amidst small fields of wild flowers in springtime, down creeky hollows to a clearing where one could sit and take it all in – and feel deep appreciation for it all – and experience a sense of being blessed. Access to beauty has always been close for me and I have regularly opened myself to it in my life.
Now I live on a nine-acre farm in the Coast Range of Oregon, off a gravel road a couple of miles outside a tiny town with a population of 164. I enjoy our hay pasture, our forest and our pond in addition to the orchard, berry patches, trellised grapes and raised beds filled with fresh, growing veggies.
However, having painted the picture of my idyllic life, I need to add that since I’m a “doer” and a “planner”, I have – in creating this small farm – burdened myself in those early years of retirement such that I actually did my body harm.
Moving away from a life behind a desk within minutes of a run on the beach or from catching a few waves to turning an abandoned cow pasture into a producing farm at age 68 might have been undertaken with a tad more pause, but no, I had not yet the awareness or experience of an aging body. I was still “young,” wasn’t I?
So, after experiencing the painful (and long-lasting) effects from the over-use of under-used muscles and tendons (not to mention an extraordinary amount of ibuprofen) I had to sit myself down and realize the status of my own body against the pageant of my vision of having things done in a ‘timely manner’ and accept that “timely” will take a little more time (maybe even a lot more time) than I had originally planned, and to stop more often during the day’s work to gaze around at the natural beauty that surrounds me and the abundant peace and quiet that envelops our emerging little farm and let my spirit breathe in that beauty and be renewed.
I wholeheartedly concur in the encouragement that we all experience and enjoy those times of ‘living at our best’ with greater frequency, depth and thanksgiving.