“Those who find beauty in all of nature will find themselves at one with the secrets of life itself.”

— L. Wolfe Gilbert

The first week of school has ended, the many trips for school supplies are done, and my pocketbook is feeling thin.  Most of us, in one form or another, are feeling the pressures of difficult economic times.  Everywhere we look, and everywhere our children look, we are bombarded by flashy ads that encourage us to buy things we really don’t need, but are told that we want.  Getting children outfitted for another year of learning always has had its price; but when budgets are tight, the collection of notebooks, folders, pencils and pens can really put a dent in the family funds.  I think I’ll design a new t-shirt — one that says, “It’s Labor Day weekend…and all I got were these stinkin’ pencils.”  There will be no spontaneous trip for one last bit of summer vacation.  We will staycation at home and grill something tasty instead.

It is so easy, especially when we are pressed for time and undergoing changes, to believe that we really need all the things that the ads showcase — we don’t just need a backpack, but a designer backpack, we need the latest sneakers in this year’s color.  We reach the point where we confuse what we want with what we need, and the result is that we feel deprived.  In my experience, the best remedy for this is to step out of the manufactured  world and into nature.

A walk in the woods is the best cure I know for the consumer blues.  First of all, the last thing I would choose to wear on an outdoor hike is anything with a designer label.  The oldest shoes I have are the best ones for such a walk, and their familiar fit is reassuring when I tie them around the feet they have adapted to over time.  I grab my old stand-by hoodie — the one whose sleeves have been knotted around my waist often enough that I no longer fuss about stretching them out of shape.  It doesn’t matter anyway, because the chances are good that those sleeves will be tied most of the time and only slip over my arms when I am too immersed in the day to worry about appearances.

If I pause right now and close my eyes, I can take myself to that place outdoors.  The sun shines with warmth and light, and there is no bill to pay for its services.  The flowers bloom; and even when today’s petals fall, there will be others to take their place.  The leaves rustle overhead and a few are beginning to show tinges of color that remind me that Autumn lurks right around the corner.  Whether I plan for its arrival or not, I will soon be treated to the magnificent display, and again it will cost not a penny.

When we spend some time embracing the beauty of nature, we learn the valuable lesson that things we want may come and go, but what we truly need is with us always.  Take a break this holiday weekend.  Breathe in the fresh, cool air of the evening.  Let the morning sun light up your being as it touches your face.  Let your eyes take in the wondrous array of colors that paint the world outside your want, and let your deepest needs be met.  That is the secret of life itself.