Let it work its magic - mindfulness in nature

“Let it work its magic”. My partner’s words as I set out, camera backpack strapped on, ready for a day in nature, but a tad grumpy nonetheless.

I’ve never had a bad day walking in the wild. Photographic inspiration always comes from somewhere; there’s always a moment to make that ‘just in case’ lens worth the extra kilos carried.

I love the sense of quiet that descends as you leave behind the immediate environs of the car park and take a few hundred strides away from everyday life and into the countryside, wood or moor. It envelops and accepts you. I love the sea most of all, the sharp tang and wind hitting your senses and stealing your breath just at that moment when you first face the coast.

Sometimes, though, it doesn’t instantly feel that way. Haruki Murakami wrote ‘No matter how far you travel, you can never get away from yourself.’ (After the Quake)

You can get away from that version of yourself that sets out, although it can take time and feel like an insurmountable battle. Off I go, worried about whether I locked the car. Remembered the tripod. Then come the litany of racing thoughts. Family, friends, work, money, health, the world, politics, lyrics to an obscure eighties song, the ending of that novel that just…stopped. Repeat, add in my football team’s woes. Repeat, shuffle, add in regret, collapse in exhaustion.

This is where the advice needs heeded. Lose the baggage, embrace the wilderness. Be in the moment.

“Let it work its magic”

A robin flits into the corner of your vision. The wind rustles the trees and bites your fingers so you walk a little faster. The ground softens and undulates, so that you choose your steps with greater care. The sun might peep out from behind a cloud. Even in January. Birdsong starts to resonate. The rhythm of your footsteps serves as a meditative, hypnotic rhythm. Rain-washed fresh air fills your lungs. Slowly, the new world unfurls, the old world retreats and the earth seems closer. Time passes quickly, equilibrium is restored and the version of yourself you first took away for the day is gone. Food tastes better, that ale you walked five miles towards is the best beer ever. Your senses, all of them, are reset.

Want to prove it? Try putting the radio on for the drive home. The news will be Brexit or Trump. The M6 will be a mess. This will all now be OK. Your own memories and experiences will carry you instead. You can get away from yourself. Even on one of those days. Go out into nature. Let it work its magic.

First published January 15 2019. Substitute Trump for COVID - the rest is still true!