|From the introduction to Gerald
Grow's book, Florida Parks: A Guide to Camping In Nature
(5th ed). Tallahassee: Longleaf Publications. Copyright 1993.
Used with permission
The Seasons of the Day
Build your day around the rhythms of the day. Forget clock-time,
and make time to respond to what the day presents you. The greatest
symphony in the world happens as the pre-dawn light rises into
day and the sun comes up to the songs of birds. Make time for
Nature's rhythms, because they are our own deepest rhythms, can
be the greatest healer.
Consider this prescription for whatever ails you: Sunrise and
sunset, each day, in silence and stillness, for two weeks.
Repeat as needed.
At least once on your trip through Florida parks, get up in the
middle of the night, somewhere around 2 to 4 in the morning.
Carefully go out to the edge of your campsite, or as far as you
know to be safe for you, and tune in to the deepest hours of
the night, the hours of greatest stillness, the huge hollow hours
Listen to what your heart tells you then. (It is the traditional
time worldwide for meditation.)
Listen to the life of those creatures who make this hour their
busiest noon--cicadas, singing crickets, the twitter of flying
squirrels, solitary bats, echoing owls, nocturnal animals like
raccoons, cautious deer easing down to the water's edge, ghost
crabs scuttling along the beach . . . . .
Being out in nature brings a chance to realign yourself with
some of the deepest roots of being. Since it is not always easy
to make the transition from civilized life to the natural world,
here are some exercises you may find helpful. Use them for twenty
minutes now and then, for as long as they help you feel more
Go on a nature walk alone.
Attune your attention so that it is generous, appreciative, receptive,
celebratory, and open-ended. Receive into awareness everything
that is around you.
Any time you find yourself thinking about something else, simply
bring your awareness back to the natural world around you and
Breathe your thoughts away
If, like me, you often get to a quiet place only to find your
mind noisy, try this.
Sit or walk quietly. Breathe in an easy, deep rhythm.
After a few minutes, imagine that your thoughts collect during
the inhale, become concentrated as you hold your breath for an
instant, then flow completely out of your mind as you exhale
in a natural, unforced manner.
Repeat this till you have cleared some mental space.
Then, as you allow your breath to flow back into you in an easy,
natural inhale, allow the natural world around you to come in
with the breath, filling your mind and your senses and flowing
into the space left empty by your departing thoughts.
Let the sounds of nature reverberate in the mental space where
you normally talk to yourself, while that voice for a time is
As long as you need to, gather up loose thoughts and breathe
them away, till your mind is clear enough to appreciate what
is around you.
While you are walking slowly through a natural area, imagine
that everything you see can be felt along the corresponding side
of your body, so that, when you pass a nearby tree, it seems
to caress you as you go by.
Allow the surface of your body to feel everything you can see.
Map each detail onto your skin.
Feel as if you are swimming and each object sends out waves that
Find a place in nature where you can sit undisturbed.
Recall how, when you drive, you can stay conscious of the road,
the steering wheel, the radio, the speedometer, and the rear-view
mirror, all at once.
As each detail in the natural setting comes into awareness, add
it to what you are already conscious of.
Add the next.
And the next, so that you become aware of each new detail without
losing consciousness of the others.
Slowly, softly widen the range of your focus. Let nature in.
Find one object you would like to spend some time with, preferably
one you can sit close to.
Place your entire attention on this one flower, leaf, tree root,
spider web, or whatever.
Any time your mind wanders, simply return to seeing.
Without any effort to think, analyze, or understand, simply see
what is before you.
As you visit a natural area, shift your perception so that you
see the objects around you as processes.
See a tree, for example, as just one moment in the life-cycle
of a process that changes continuously, every season, every day,
from seed to tree to rotting log.
See a mayfly not as a thing, but as a point in a changing cycle
that, at this moment, has wings and flutters before you.
If you see a boardwalk, realize that at one time it was not there,
and someday it will be gone.
At sunrise, imaginatively perceive that the sun is at a particular
moment in the immense life-cycle of a star--changing.
Think how many of our fundamental ways of understanding reality--such
as scientific laws--have changed over the centuries, and are
Know how you yourself have changed.
Realize that nothing you see before you has ever occurred in
quite the same way. And the moment that is happening now will
Feel what a privilege, what a mystery, what a miracle it is,
to be here, on this earth, under these slowly-changing stars,
with these dear people--now.