All things good are wild and free.
–Henry David Thoreau
Summer often affords us the opportunity to escape, to get outside and step away from our routines and familiar paths through the day. As we work to change the world in positive ways, in whatever form that takes, it’s vital to pause as well.
There’s a saying that “we learn to ski in the summer and swim in the winter”—time away doesn’t only allow us the opportunity to recharge but it internalizes new practices and perspectives, allowing us to return to our work with renewed energy and focus.
Creating a more sustainable society begins with sustaining ourselves. There is a quality of summer that allows access to a supportive vitality and wildness. Whether in the garden with sunflowers and tomatoes growing to science-fiction proportions, along a river or at the beach, or in an alpine meadow graced by flowers, summer inspires a feeling of freedom and expansiveness modeled by nature as the year’s growth peaks.
A connection with the wildness in nature, even for a short time, can be relaxing and also can help us as we return to our work. How is it that we pace ourselves and continue to take time away—even if this means a few hours or a day here and there? Where can we re-focus and set time aside to move the productivity of our year into building resources and planning for the year ahead? What do we need to learn or do differently to make our work more effective and align with the vision we’ve laid out for ourselves and our organizations?
Asking such questions after a connection with what is wild in nature may also allow us to see those places in ourselves or in our work which we have neglected or which need more attention.
On the heels of a destructive experience like the wildness of a hurricane, we can think in very different ways about we are individually, organizationally, or culturally prepared for chaos, and how we transform the fabric of our communities to adapt appropriately.
In a less acute but equally powerful example, we spend much of our day with our experience mediated by technology and disconnected from the natural world. Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods documents the challenges of “nature deficit disorder” and while particularly focused on the impact this has on children, we all experience the separation from nature and wildness differently, as detailed in the growing field of ecopsychology.
While technology can provide the infrastructure to be more productive, it can also separate us further from both nature and other people, altering our expectations regarding communication with others and the speed at which change occurs.
As nature reminds us, and as the Vietnamese Zen monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh has written: “The real miracle is not to walk on water or in thin air, but to walk on the earth.”