I like the feeling of no one knowing where I am when I’m out on my own in nature. It is a certain sense of privacy, self-reliance, and autonomy that is soul-soothing. There is so much opportunity for self-discovery in the peacefulness of solitude. I find myself reflecting on past journeys and future prospects in an open, curious mindset. When I am alone in the woods, it is only then that I feel as if I can be truly alive and attentive to myself and to that around me. No one can call, text, or email me. No one can request my time or attention because I have temporarily taken that option away. In those limited moments, I am attentive to my internal thoughts and to the external sounds of nature that surround me.
Hearing the sounds of the natural world is the most pleasant experience of being alone in the woods. I love to hear the birds sing in a melodious rhythm. I sit and try to localize the sounds that are near me and far away as a mindful practice of intentional listening. I lose focus on sight in the sound. I lose focus on touch and smell. Although I still see the world around me, I give it little attentional energy. I hear the owls hoot about the trees and the water whisper through the creek. I hear traffic buzz by from a nearby highway. I hear car doors slam shut in the neighborhood that surrounds this empty, wooded area. I listen for the buzz of the quiet. It comes in lulls and imperfectly spaced increments, but every now and then, there’s nothing to hear. It is the complete absence of sound. And it is so peaceful.
There are times when I crave the quiet of solitude. The emptiness at the dusk of night. At the end of the day, when the trails are empty, I sometimes find myself there just to enjoy a peaceful meditation where I can focus on just the sounds. The close of the day, when people have retired to their homes, is when I come out to enjoy the melody of the outdoors. It is when the sun begins to set, and the day transitions into the night. That is when I find the strongest sense of autonomy and peace — when the sun prepares to sleep and slowly turns out its the light.
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