For one thing, I have no evidence that those great exercise endorphins I hear rumors about actually exist. I am an unrepentant Aendorphist. Or maybe an Agnostendorphist. No matter how hard I work out, run, whatever, I never get any rush of endorphin euphoria, even a mild one that scores more as "kinda nice," so I strongly suspect that exercise endorphins are a myth, like Santa, that They use to get us to be Good. Which is probably why I'm so out of shape. But that's another problem.
This one is the healing powers of nature. I don't get that either.
|Instamatic shot, 1971|
Which might be kind of odd for a forest-primevil lover, which I am. Cities are great for brief visits to partake of concerts and stores but I have a perpetual kind of low-grade tension in them and my readiness to get away appears in a few days. I crave our finding a piece of property far away from all noise not produced by nature.
Our semi-annual nerve-frazzling, brain-grinding biker rally may be why I'm thinking about this.
But anyway, that's different from finding nature healing. Or, I guess it is. When my life has been in bad shape, I have never found that the woods or the ocean or the gardens or anything makes me feel at all more empowered, hopeful, or at peace. I read about others who go through a bad life-passage, and who take to the woods or the desert and find it healing in some way. I like it out there with the trees and water, but feel just as lousy.
The closest I've ever come to having a nature experience that made me feel any better-centered, or that notched my mood up a hair, was by the ocean on a dark night. I haven't walked by the ocean at night in many years. We don't live all that close, and you kind of need to be in walking distance since the whole driving/parking thing makes this particular experience horribly ordinary. But when I have midnight-beach-walked in the past, usually on a vacation with a beachfront rental, the Atlantic Ocean at night was wonderfully overwhelming.
|35mm basic camera, 1981|
By day, I can easily perceive the build and crash of breakers, many yards away out there, as being .... well, as being many yards away out there. But in the dark, the surge feels threatening and kind of adrenalin-rush overwhelming, and feels that way over and over, no matter how many times I experience it.
Safe on shore, I see this black featureless horizon, swelling up and roaring at me, building so tall that it doesn't seem possible that it won't engulf the sand and me with it. The black wall rises and I have to fight the urge to hold my breath, and then it topples and crashes and is gone while I just can't quite make my mind believe such a massive rushing entity has simply dissipated. That is the only force of nature that has ever helped me, and I'm not sure why. It's Huge and makes my life feel comfortably trivial, but no other natural landscape, equally immense or majestic, can produce the feeling. Maybe the sense of being in danger is the key component. Maybe that works sort of like a drug to overwhelm any other anxiety I've got going on.
|Brookgreen Gardens Live Oak, May 2012|
So I do have a type of nature experience that helps me, but the difference is that it doesn't make me feel better in a way I can keep. It's for the moment. Not only is whatever was bothering me still bothering me, but I feel no forward movement. Nature gives me only a brief break, but there's nothing wrong with that.
* My post title refers to this cool poem.