Book and travel ideas to inspire “outdoor therapy” and to plan for #travelsomeday.
Shut in because of the Corona Virus pandemic, opportunities for quiet contemplation, soul searching, and spiritual retreat abound. Too bad I don’t find those pursuits more appealing. Hugs, shared meals, raucous laughter, talking with strangers I meet when I travel, reading a person’s facial expressions without the cover of a mask. Those are just a few of the things I miss during this time of isolation during the Corona Virus pandemic.
I’ve tried all sorts of remedies for my shelter-in-place malaise—cooking, puzzles, cleaning, Zoom chats and Netflix galore. Yet, the only place I really find solace is outdoors. Nature and open spaces, along with the physical exertion of walking mile after mile, sooth my mind and spirit.
Psychologists have been studying this phenomenon for some time. Hence the term nature therapy. The Japanese call it, shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing . Nature deficit has also been diagnosed, a “dose of fresh air” prescribed. And writers have written about the beauty and adventure of connecting with nature for years. Now is a great time to tap into their observations of the universe, our environment and our fellow human beings.
For literature to inspire your outdoor journeys I recommend Gretel Ehrlich’s The Solace of Open Spaces about her time in Wyoming and Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire about his stint at a park ranger in Arches National Park in Utah. Or, for a more recent read, I enjoyed Richard Powers’ Pulitizer Prize winning book, The Overstory, about a wide-ranging cast of characters whose experiences all relate to trees.
Finally, for approachable nature poetry, you can’t beat anything by Mary Oliver. In her poem, “Wild Geese,” she says that despite our problems, the world goes on.
…”Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–over and over announcing your place in the family of things.”
Dreaming of Places to Go
I have friends who haven’t left their New York City apartment for weeks. And who can blame them? I feel fortunate that here in the Twin Cities we have a massive number of parks and recreation areas at our finger tips where we can spread out from one another. I asked some of my friends at convention and visitors bureaus about the outdoor spaces they love to show off to visitors. I started with the Midwest. You may be surprised at the beautiful open spaces they offer, not far from large cities. They make for beautiful viewing and inspiration for places to go in the future.
What a week for the Hoosiers! Thanks to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which appears designed to allow businesses to refuse service to LGBT people, and the verbal bumbling of Governor Mike Pence, Indiana hasn’t had this much attention since Bobby Knight’s chair-throwing days at Indiana University. In fact, the issue prompted David Letterman to say he’d prefer to have Bobby Knight as Indiana governor.
I’ve watched with amusement as the right wingers in the Indiana state legislature and other areas of Hoosier life have back-pedaled and beeped like as garbage truck backing up, “Who us? No way do we mean to discriminate against the LGBT community. No, no, you misunderstand.”
Tell me what you think
And, in what is surely an April Fool’s joke, the Arkansas legislature has shown spectacular inability to learn from the mistakes of others by passing a similar bill, despite the dustup in Indiana. Also amusing: cities and states are capitalizing on Indiana’s infamy, encouraging Indiana businesses to set up shop in their jurisdictions where they’re business- and gay-friendly. Similarly, many government entities have declared Indiana off limits for employee travel. Businesses and sports organizations are making it known that such attitudes are bad for business, business being a huge priority in Indiana— maybe even trumping “Christian” family values.
It’s funny to watch Indiana bureaucrats bumbling, but discrimination isn’t funny. For me it brings up a serious question: I’m planning to go to Indiana in a few weeks to visit friends. Should I go? Surely an individual should take a stand and be as moral as say, Emily’s List or the state of Virginia, or the mayor of Palm Beach and just say “no.” It makes me wonder what is the responsibility of individuals to protest discriminatory policies and “vote with their feet” by not going. I see I’m not the only one with this question as #banindiana and #boycottindiana are trending on Twitter.
I used to live in Indianapolis, a LONG time ago, so I know that everyone in Indiana isn’t a bigot. I have no doubt that the state will rectify its RFRA mistake by the time I get there, though Mike Pence can kiss any thought about a presidential run goodbye. Good. And the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Bureau folks are working overtime to recover from this PR fiasco. Their web site is covered with rainbows, “All Are Welcome in Indy” banners, and they’re rolling out the rainbow carpet with a guide to LGBT Indy. Still, I’m curious what you think is the individual traveler’s obligation to stand up for what’s right? Tell me what you think.
Travel to the places you read about. Read about the places you travel.