Clearing My Head

The sky was the kind of blue that only comes from the stark contrast made by five inches of pure white snow, gray branches and an amazing orange and pink sunset off in the horizon. It was the kind of night where I could really get lost in my thoughts as I trudged through the snow, trying to keep up with my brother and two dogs.

That’s the nice thing about going for walks with my brother: I’m not required to make conversation. Granted, for the first fifteen minutes I usually talk his ear off, not having anyone else to chat in person with during the day, but after I get it out of my system we usually just walk along in silence. Part of this is because I can never quite keep up and I’m usually several feet behind him, having much shorter strides than he. This always was a problem when traveling and at the end of the two weeks spent together, I grew to absolutely detest it and would be cursing his back as he slowly became a dot in the distance. On one occasion, he was so far ahead I lost him and ended up standing on a German street corner waiting for him to realize I wasn’t behind him any longer.

Anyway, I’m veering off course here.

I grew to really appreciate peace and quiet while living in NYC. When thesis would become too much I would walk in circles around the resevoir. When my job was driving me insane I would get lost in the ramble (or go all the way to Wyoming to walk around Jenny Lake in the Grand Tetons National Park). When I got to Europe I would take long walks by myself to just clear my head.

Whenever I have things on my mind I need to get out into the fresh air and zone the eff out. It’s taken me a little while to figure it out, but being in wide open spaces, with nature surrounding me, is when I feel most balanced. A fresh breeze and the sound of birds does wonders to cure a bad mood (As do ocean waves). For a while, though, I had lost the ability to do that. There was job frustration layered with heartbreak and confusion topped with slight depression over the past year and even a run through the biting cold that hurt, at night in Central Park, couldn’t cure it. It wasn’t until around late September when I noticed something change within me. I believe I was in Norway, walking up Bergen’s second highest mountain surrounded by mossy greenness that I realized that, for the first time in maybe my entire life, I was in love with my life.  It happened over and over and over again, when I walked through a valley on the Isle of Skye surrounded by two beautiful mountain ranges; when I was walking through the streets of Seville, not caring if I got lost; when I was walking along the Seine in Paris at night, the Eiffel Tower all lit up in front of me. And those are just a handful of the many many moments when I felt my heart soar.

I just wanted to run up to random people and tell them how fantastic my life was. I wanted to tell the bartender who looked at me like I was crazy when I asked where the start of the trail was, standing in my lime green rain coat that was a couple sizes too big and shoes that let in the water instead of kept them out, that my life was too amazing not to experience this just because I might get a little wet. I got extremely wet but I didn’t care, I was in love.

Last night was bitterly cold, the kind that really gets into your bones but I didn’t care. I let my brother and dogs get a little ahead of me in the dusk, I kicked the powdery snow up in poofs in front of me as I went and I felt the peace settle over me. My brain, which can sometimes be a simmering pot of thoughts and can drive me a little insane, was cleared out and I could feel it smiling. You know that feeling. That feeling when things just are right in the world, even if it’s just for a moment. My life might not be perfect, but I’m still madly, passionately, in love with it.

I never want that to change.


20 Responses

  1. Talking walks on my own has always been one of the ways for me to blow off steam, don’t even really pay attention to where I’m going.

    I absolutely love the end of this post.

  2. I could really use that feeling right now! ♥

  3. This was so beautifully written!

    I’m so jealous that you are feeling this right now. Honestly, I always want to take walks to clear my head, BUT, I cannot brave the cold. Nope, I just can’t. I suck. Maybe I can pace around my house, lol.

  4. I find that I can really zone out/let go of things when i’m walking my dog around the block. Those moments are so important. I love how you likened your brain to a “simmering pot of thoughts.” I think my head/brain is a lot like Times Square: constant hustle/bustle, signs blinking and being pulled in every direction some days.

  5. You are an incredibly talented writer. I genuinely enjoy reading your blog posts.

    ….”being in wide open spaces, with nature surrounding me, is when I feel most balanced”…..

    I need to get in touch with that feeling.

  6. Aaahhhh *sigh*, that is what I pray for, dream of and will be focused on for 2010. I know it takes practice and patience, but patience is NOT a virtue I own, and so I pray that clarity comes quickly 🙂

  7. Is that picture from Morocco? It’s so gorgeous.

    (If it’s Sleeping Bear Dunes or someplace at home I will feel like an idiot.)

  8. You may enjoy this post from another blog I read…

    It works. You may try it when you can’t go for walks to clear your head. 🙂

  9. I know just the feeling! Swimming does this for me. I think it has something to do with blocking out all sound.

  10. Absolutely BEAUTIFUL.

  11. This was a wonderful read, Ashley! I wish I could walk alone like this and let the peace and quiet fill me. In fact, I’m hoping that I will be able to when I move to Mississippi, but as of right now where I live it is nearly impossible for me to walk alone because it’s far too scary. :/

  12. People don’t have enough time to themselves and just enjoy the beauty of life. For me, it can be a walk, a run or even a bike ride, but I always feel free

  13. Man, I love this. It’s so beautifully well-written. And I love that people can find quiet and solace in busy cities like NYC! I don’t think I could (just had a convo with a friend about it recently), but I love that different things make different people tick. And I still can’t wait to visit NYC next weekend.

    The realization that you’re in love with your life is an incredible one. Hold onto it!

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