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Getting back to natural mind

My daughter Wendy met her new husband Dave at the Maine Outdoor Adventure Club; for their wedding they celebrated their shared passion for nature by hiring a children's camp at a secluded lake in Maine ... for all the guests, for a whole weekend. My other daughter Jessica stayed in a cabin and lent me her tent, so I could try to get away from problems with my chemical sensitivities.

Before we went to the camp I tested the tent and felt fine in it. Though rated for eight sleepers, it was just right for my sleeping bag, a picnic basket, a big softsided suitcase, my oxygen cart, and two folding fabric chairs of Jessica's that have wide feet to protect the tent floor. I could sit in one with my back supported, and put my feet up on the other.

Still I spent a lot of time lying down, because I did have trouble with reactions. The wedding guests, warned about me, were very considerate; I've never been in such a large group with so little scent. Still it was impossible to avoid everything.

Having a sick reaction while living in the woods, however, differed from my usual experience. Fresh air clearly improved my recovery. But something else was going on, that startled me: I found it easier to lie around idle here, than at home. My mind didn't fuss; it was happy to do nothing — to rest profoundly.

Certainly the beauty of the woods soothed my mind. I drank in the way pine needles on the ground made patterns with mossy roots, sprinkles of mushrooms, ferns, partridgeberry, tufts of grass which had found a spot of sun.... And the sight of the trees over my tent, that I could see through its skylight even when flat on my back.

But the curious part is, I couldn't really see much of the trees then; there was just a small piece of the sky visible past the edge of the rain fly. Was natural beauty wholly responsible for the calm I felt lying there? In my garden I don't feel that effect; I'm usually thinking about what it needs.

Nevertheless after we got back home, I could still get that relaxed feeling back. Not by remembering the beauty, but by directly returning my mind to the calm. It feels like something natural to my mind, a native capability my retreat in the woods helped me rediscover.


© Copyright 2006 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, 15 September 2006

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