I bet that if people spent a little time each day, just a minute staring at the stars at night or looking out across forests, mountains, or sparkling water, they would live a lot differently.
I was trudging up a rocky trail, a worn path up a rather steep little mountain, my breath outlined in the crisp autumn air as I thought, “Why did I decide to spend my day off hiking?” I’d gone on the trail before and knew the workout I was up for. Not to mention the clouds looked a little dark and there was a layer of frost on the leaves in the yard when I got up in the morning.
Like many of us, I had been too caught up in work, family, life to slow down enough for some quiet time in nature. But after growing up in a nature-rich state full of pristine hiking spots, I consistently get an urge to take to the outdoors even after moving to a bigger city for a new job. So, today was another day I knew I would have to put on my boots, layer up, and get my dose of sweat and fresh air.
Usually, on the way up a mountain I don’t think about much. I think about the way the trail curves here and there and how strong gravity is, always aware of the temperature. It isn’t until I reach the top, sitting on the ledge of giant rocks overlooking tree lines and peaks with the warm sun on my face, that a whole flood of emotions and thoughts about life overtake me. The two hours of quiet hiking distilled into ten minutes of gratitude at the summit that I would not have experienced if I had just stayed home in front of a screen or dozing.
Those ten minutes at the top, feeling sweaty and accomplished, a thought came to me. What would I say at the Thanksgiving table this year? What was I grateful for?
There were so many things I could think of, but the quiet up there gave me a rare gift of clarity. I could allow myself to be vulnerable, recalling the happiest and the most painful experiences of my year and how I changed and grew. But I knew I couldn’t have grown without the help of some people who I didn’t actually take the time to truly express my gratitude towards. And maybe I didn’t have to tell all of them. Maybe it was enough to acknowledge within myself. But I thought I could thank at least one person and what better time than Thanksgiving?
Admittingly, on the way down from the mountain my thoughts were again preoccupied by making sure I took the right turns and the protest of my knees on the steep decline. But when I got back, a thank you note was carefully written, placed in an addressed envelope and mailed off to the recipient.
Spend a little quiet time in nature. Whether it is two hours or two minutes, the realizations you receive may not change your life overnight, but no one summits a mountain in one step.
Who is helping you climb the summits in your life? Don’t forget to tell them thank you.