As promised in yesterday’s post, I would love to share some the contents of my Durga toolbox that help me as a parent of a child with special needs stay joyful, courageous and compassionate on my path through life.
To recognize the value of my first tool, you must understand that I live in one of the most densely populated cities in the US. It’s hipster, urban, organic, ironic geeky, smart and innovative. Think Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein brilliant comedy Portlandia (check out the hilarious opening sequence), but for real – Rock, Paper, Scissors tournaments, roller derby leagues, coffee shop patrons tying up tables for hours while typing on antique
typewriters, waitresses wearing fake mustaches for their entire shift with a straight face. (Yes, these are all things that I swear I have seen first hand in my own neighborhood.)
But green it is not. I don’t mean green as in eco-friendly, because the city prides itself on high walk-ability and the upcoming single-stream recycling program. I mean green as in actual trees, green as in chlorophyll, the
necessary ingredient to transform carbon dioxide into oxygen through photosynthesis. I mean green as in the opposite of grey and black, the colors of concrete and asphalt. Green as in things not covered in vinyl siding or
surrounded by chain link fences.
I love how cities invite and cultivate weirdness. But after a while this lack of green does a number on my nervous system and my sense of perspective, and I get a little neurotic. And neurotic is not helpful if I want to lead a
joyful, compassionate and courageous life. If I spend too much time on pavement I stop seeing the joy and focus too much on the challenges. I irritate easily, I forget to be grateful, and I get tense and annoyed.
My husband is Swedish, as in being from Sweden. Besides having a penchant for ABBA (for real) and an innate ability to assemble IKEA furniture (and have fun while doing it), he also comes from a proud people who seem born to spend time in nature. Swedes don’t just have summer houses in the country; they have tiny little summer shack out in the woods for when the summer house gets too crowded.
My husband has taught me the value of getting out in the woods to combat urban fatigue. Surrounded by a few trees, my twitchiness subsides. My breathing deepens and slows. My delight in simple pleasures returns. So most weekends, my husband and I take the kids out of the concrete jungle for a little communing with Mother Nature.
Because our kids are not physically able to hike for long stretches, we’ve developed a raison d’être for these outings: the nature picnic. To say that we rock the nature picnic is an understatement, if you’ll allow for some bragging here. We have separate thermoses for coffee, milk and hot chocolate, thin foam pads to sit on, nesting cups that take up little space in our backpack (I’ll try to find a link some time), a nature guide, a ready supply of wet wipes, and one golden package of our ubiquitous Maria cookies. Year round, we can be found sitting on a fallen tree trunk or a large rock dunking our cookies and listening to the sounds of birds and squirrels.
The coffee tastes better than anything our hipster baristas could craft, the kids are entertained looking for pine cones and sticks, and there is absolutely nothing to do. That is, nothing but settle back into myself, and be gently reminded by Mother Nature that the world is full of an endless supply of things to marvel at, helping me recharge, heal and become whole again.