Don't get me wrong. I like living in the city. In fact, I count it a surreal privilege to get to live in one of the largest cities in the United States. I never would have thought in a million years that I would end up here. Christian never in a million years never would have thought he'd end up in the United States.
But that's a story for another time.
Do you guys know what I mean, though? How you can love a place and still know that it's for a season? And how even though you love it, it can still suffocate you?
Since I grew up an hour from the Pacific Ocean to the west and an hour from the mountains to the east, evergreens, lush forest, moss covered rocks and all kinds of beautiful waterfalls, the city does not grip my soul the same way.
It's not that the city isn't "home." It's not that I miss Oregon as a whole. But I miss nature. I was told one time that man finds strong communion with God dominantly in one of three ways: fellowship, music or nature. I actually think that all three play a role in my life, but since the word "dominantly" is there, I definitely know that my dominant communion/connection time with God is when I am in nature.
Living in a giant maze of concrete is not exactly conducive to that specific longing. And it gets harder as the days go by and the sirens blare, and the stars are out-shined by street lights. It actually reminds me of that line in the movie Madagascar where the lion (Alex) is trying to cheer up his zebra friend (Marty) by optimistically pointing out that "even the star is out!" To which Marty forlornly says, "Hellicopter", as the star, which does in fact turn out to be a hellicopter, suddenly whizzes across the night sky. In that movie, Alex's love for living in the city is contrasted with Marty's natural pull for "the wild" as they say. And oftentimes, I honestly find myself identifying most with Marty.
I was talking with some girlfriends yesterday morning. The air was cool and crisp, the sun was golden and the leaves were crunchy. As we sat outside sipping our autumn lattes we began talking about this struggle. Life in the city can be summed up in one word: busy. How can we practically slow down and process? Heal? How can we who crave the days when we wandered in the woods find peace and rest regardless of whether or not we find ourselves walking on fresh grass or on firm concrete?
There are definitely many remedies for this, but I'll tell you what I've come up with. For me, I will go into my living room where we have a large rug. I'll find the "nature noise" or "rainstorm" playlists on Spotify and hit the shuffle button. Then I simply lay down with my eyes closed and let my mind wander. I tune out the street noise and concentrate on the memories of laying on my bedroom floor as a kid, the window open so that I could hear the drops of rain kissing leaves and earth. I walk myself through the smells of the fir needles, the mysterious look of fog. What it's like to taste fresh air on your tongue.
It's healing, really. For my mind, my soul, my body.
And it makes sense, I think. Because I believe that this is a tiny taste of the way Man was meant to be.
It would be well perhaps if we were to spend more of our days and nights without any obstruction between us and the celestial bodies, if the poet did not speak so much from under a roof, or the saint dwell there so long. Birds do not sing in caves, nor do doves cherish their innocence in dovecots.
- Henry David Thoreau
Another antidote that I've discovered came about once I discovered Thoreau. I stumbled across his memoirs of Walden pond in Massachusetts and figured that when these times come where I am aching for nature and I find myself unable to be in it, what if I read about it? And sure enough, doing this has proved helpful for me, too.
These two methods both go hand in hand with making sure that I give myself a good amount of reading, prayer and meditation time in the mornings. Because after all, there is no better place to find rest than in the One who created it.
So here's to the weekend and to figuring out how you can make time to rest!