The Nature of Nature

I went camping with a girlfriend for the holiday weekend (since Corey has been out of town for work) at a historic themed event that we generally just call a rendezvous. A family friendly recreation of when the fur trappers used to get together to party and trade in the summers before the country was devoid of nice pelts (namely beaver) pretty much entirely.

I spent all week preparing the gear we would need, and I found it to be an interesting change of pace that I was feeling more excited than anxious about the impending trip. There was a lot of responsibility involved in getting ready, but these events send me into a specific kind of mode.

Relaxation mode.

I am not someone who can relax easily. I usually pull every trick I can think of out of my hat to try to make it happen, but in reality there is something about living in a modern setting that makes me feel completely destroyed more often than not. After only about 6 hours of returning to my apartment after camping the tension in my body was back to 80% or more of what it was before leaving, and after waking up in a bed this morning my body was screaming in pain.

This is a huge difference from waking up 24 hours ago on the ground. I do find sleeping on the ground painful, but it is painful in a completely different way. Body parts falling asleep in the middle of the night because of being pinned to the ground is painful, but if I move the pain is gone. While here, in daily living, the pain is constant -and everywhere. I expect it must have something to do with being unable to relax, which I just mentioned.

Even monday morning before packing up to leave I sat in an uncomfortable wooden chair looking up through the trees thinking,

“I honestly can’t remember the last time I felt this relaxed.

When I look at the bigger picture, it doesn’t seem possible that the experience is more physically relaxing than being anywhere else. Hard chairs. Sleeping on the ground. Cooking over a fire. Having to trek to the closest available bathroom. Not bathing. These things wouldn’t seem to be relaxing, by all means they would appear to me to be much more difficult than how we live today.

But the pace is slow. And nature is inviting.

The piece of land we camped on had a major thoroughfare on one side and a housing development on the other. It wasn’t exactly wilderness, after all I did just spend the last 3 days walking nearly barefoot on gravel roads. At the same time, nature was able to fool the senses a little bit. Tall trees blotting out planes and other lights. Shrubbery creating cocoon-like pockets of camps and winding trails to… someplace.

If there is one thing I’ve learned from camping all these years it is that nature’s elements can overpower all internal clocks and sense of urgency. Even Luna (my dog) who has an internal clock that goes off at 5 am every morning at home suddenly slept in, internal clock wiped clean.

I wake up when nature wakes me up with the sun or birds or rain. I sleep when I am tired. I eat when I am hungry. As the idea of time becomes less of an issue, so does the tension in my body. There is nothing to be late for, and if something is going on somebody’ll walk by and say, “hey, something is happening over there if you didn’t know.” It is a perfect recipe for living in the moment.

I had a small depressive dip that lasted about two hours on Saturday and I walked out into the woods, sat on a patch of moss in the sunshine, and it passed. In nature I didn’t have to worry about feeling trapped or claustrophobic by my apartment when this happened, and I didn’t have any reason to feel guilty for not getting anything done. As bad as I felt, it was the best I’ve felt about just letting it happen and moving on.

I guess I don’t have any specific conclusions, really just a reiteration of knowledge I already had. When doctors say, “avoid stress,” living in nature is the one situation I know that I can genuinely say I can do that. For someone who can’t usually relax, even just laying in the grass in the park can make me feel like some of the pointless modern drama I find so overwhelming has melted away momentarily. I can’t seem to decide if it is our culture, or if I’ve just been born into the wrong time.

10 responses to “The Nature of Nature

  1. Glad you enjoyed it & felt relaxed.

  2. I’m glad you were able to find refuge in nature this weekend. The world really is much wider and more rejuvenating than we realize when caught up in our claustrophobic day-to-day lives. I, too, regularly find it difficult to relax. Even socializing with people whose company I enjoy leaves me very much wrung out and wasted. So I deeply empathize with your plight. Life is often draining but I’m glad you got a break from all that. Have you ever closed your eyes and meditated on the things you loved in nature, imagined yourself surrounded by those things and how good they make you feel when you start to feel stifled and stressed by life? Maybe it’s a silly suggestion, but maybe it could help you relax a little when you’re miles away frim your refuge in nature. Anyway, I’m just happy for you that you got out and felt good. 🙂

    • Sarah @ bi[polar] curious

      Thanks! I feel similarly when it comes to socializing, and there are only a few people I can be around for any length of time without feeling completely drained. Even with the people I love most, though, I have to have time alone to re-charge my batteries.

      I have tried meditation, but the problem (or it feels like a problem when it happens anyway) is that when I recall most places in nature I have particularly enjoyed, I get very emotional. I don’t know if I am choosing the wrong places to conjure up, or I need to create a fictional place, or I just need to deal with it… but the nostalgia, longing, and emotion is so distracting I have trouble getting to the “relaxed” portion! Guided meditation has been a bit better because the places I’ve been led to usually have no emotional attachment.

      Anyway, good tip! I should look into that a bit more.

  3. You know, I think it might be a little bit of both historical setting and culture.

    When I lived in Thailand, I had to adjust to a totally different idea of time. Thai time is ruled by the national saying of mai pen rai or basically no worries. I stopped wearing a watch and I refuse to wear one now.

    But I hate how the clock can tend to rule my life. The last few outside jobs I had I would sometimes find myself too busy to go use the bathroom. How ridiculous is that! Or eating while driving because I was running late.

    Now, I just want to stay at home, play with my cats, and tend some flowers…

    • Sarah @ bi[polar] curious

      I agree. I was thinking about it yesterday and it is definitely both the setting and the way of living that makes the scenario so stressless for me.

      I’ve always wanted to live in Thailand, I’ve had several friends do so and I know I could definitely appreciate a little mai pen rai.

      And I have often deprived myself of food or using the bathroom or relaxation because “there isn’t time”, isn’t it bizarre how a clock can just veto all other needs?

  4. PS. SO glad you have a good time! I hope you get to go camping of a regular basis. It would be good for your adrenal glands with all the stree reduction 🙂

  5. I totally identify! Getting out into nature is one of my sure-fire ways to relax, which is not something I do readily. In the last few years I’ve kicked it up a notch by doing a lot of hiking along with camping, which adds some solid exercise in the mix as well, and together that seems to do me a lot of good. Too bad I can’t always live that way!

    • Sarah @ bi[polar] curious

      Yesterday my therapist and I concluded I’d better just off and join a commune somewhere, I really do wish there were more realistic ways to live in nature these days.

      • I think about moving to Thailand or moving to a commune all the time!

        The only thing holding me back are my fur-babies. International travel with pets is a no-go, and communes rarely let in people with animals, in my research anyway.

        Maybe one day one of your blog followers will get some land and we can all start our own bipolar commune with kitties and zombie-fighting gear!

  6. Sounds wonderful. I spent the summer solstice at Stonehenge this year and I hadn’t felt that grounded in a long time. Despite being surrounded by 21,000 other people (usually a recipe for über anxiety) and sleeping (or not) on the ground in the open air, there was a profound sense of inner calm that I’d desperately needed. Nature is awesome 🙂

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