On Nature and Peace of Mind...

And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.
-William Shakespeare, "As You Like It" (II.i.1–17).

I recently wrote of Camp. A camper’s last summer at Chateaugay is spent majorly training for and then executing three week-long trips of biking, hiking, and canoeing. I remember my Wilderness summer for the events our age-group planned; for the secret grounds we cooked, cleaned, and slept in (legend at Chateaugay and unseen until your final year); for our bonfires, sing-alongs, and trips; but also for the moments of solitary writing I took, tucked away in the woods or perched atop a trunk that traversed a stream or straddling the highest beam of a cabin.

I remember sitting cross-legged atop a boulder, bound journal in-hand, and observing sparrows that flitted about, indifferent to my presence. Or staring directly up, in awe of the aurora borealis as it spilled watercolors across the night sky. There is something sacred about writing in nature, when all is quiet except for the sounds and smells of a forest. There is peace.

When I ventured to Colby College, I found similar satisfaction in perching in a tree atop Runnels Hill, a natural bank in a remote part of campus. With journal in hand, I listened to what lay around me and wrote stream-of-consciousness.

Perhaps I relish natural places because they help quiet my Monkey Mind. There is nothing to observe except what is present. For this reason, you can better appreciate the organic activity of the plants, animals, and elements around you. Find me during one of these moments and I’ll either be deep in thought or giggling mirthlessly to myself.

When I returned to New York City after college, I rediscovered the habitat that originally offered such solace. Although girdled by one of the liveliest cities in the world, Central Park offers natural escapes from this urban wilderness. Not to give away any secrets, but some of the most precious areas of this landscape exist farther North than most natives and tourists venture. It’s in these remote recesses that I once again take out my notebook and write.

What's your natural place that you escape to?