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This summer, I attended an artist’s workshop in Vermont. This was my first time traveling to attend one in person, as opposed to online, and I committed to make it a productive week and worth an 8 hour drive.
The time spent on an organic farm doing yoga, hiking, writing and painting was exactly what I needed. All the simple, delicious food we ate was grown and expertly prepared on the farm. I met other artists who were generous in sharing their work and words. My instructors were encouraging, attentive and challenged us to be mindful and aware of our natural surroundings, as well as with mark making in our art.
When I do have time to walk or hike at home, I often listen to a podcast or audiobook. Multitasking this way ‘makes the most of my time’. Or so I thought. When assigned to hike to a spot in the woods and spend a half hour in silence, writing and sketching, I realized how much I was missing. With my eyes and ears open, I heard the back and forth chatter of birds. The stream babbled past, making not one sound but two different patterns as it rushed actively from the hill to the smaller rocks level in front of me. I touched the damp moss and leaves while feeling a cool breeze on my face. The forest smelled rich and earthy after the morning rain, a distinctive odor known as petrichor. Petrichor is the musky, fresh scent caused by the water from the rain, along with certain compounds like ozone, geosmin, and plant oils. And yes, I was so enchanted by it that I looked it up to find out more. (You’re welcome). I sat by the stream and wrote notes, did drawings and color studies of the beautiful scene around me, but it wasn’t around me, it was in me. I was absorbed in it... full of awareness,
So present, in fact, I lost track of time and the group had to come and get me.
Researchers have found that our brain lacks the ability to perform multiple tasks at the same time- in moments where we think we’re multitasking, we are most likely just switching quickly from task to task. More importantly, we are cheating ourselves, as well as others, of our full attention. I don’t think that my response to Vermont is because it is more beautiful than my home state of Pennsylvania. I was just completely present on that farm, full of gratitude and connection while there. What if I apply this presence to all aspects of my life? What if you do so with yours?
Thoreau said, “Live in each season as it passes, breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” Be fully present where you are, right now. We don’t need to go somewhere else and seek out nature, we are nature. It is not around us, it is in us, and
I am grateful for that reminder.