In the past few months, I’ve been focusing on improving my cardio health and endurance. I spend a few evenings a week on the treadmill, participate in step challenges with friends and get out in nature to hike the beauty of Iowa.
Over the weekend, I ventured to Stone State Park, an uncommon trail-studded patch of the Loess Hills on the edge of Sioux City. It’s one of my favorite local nature hangouts.
I packed up my backpack — water bottle, journal, camera and lip balm — and embarked on one of the marked hiking trails. After I descended into the silence of the forest, it was obvious the sun’s rays hadn’t penetrated the dense, winter canopy of leaf-less trees.
Ahead of me were miles of snow and ice-covered paths and steps.
I got frustrated. I looked down at my perky blue sneakers and wished I had brought my cozy snow boots. I thought about turning around and calling my adventure off, then I paused.
If I take mindful steps and move with intention, I’m less likely to fall. I can do this.
As the wintry trail began to slope uphill, I wondered if I should even be trying this. Alongside my footprints were maybe one or two other pairs randomly imprinting the white path. At times, I wasn’t sure if I was on the marked trail or if I had veered off onto a deer path.
Then the forest whispered to me…slow down.
I noticed a handful of shiny acorns and a wrinkly walnut in my path. Whoa, I really don’t need to step on those and twist my ankle, I thought to myself. Then I realized it was just Mother Nature nudging me with a few more reminders.
Angie, slow down.
I worked to identify each step as I ascended up the path toward a lookout point. One foot in front of the other, slow, mindful, wet, cold, snow-covered. I stopped and looked over my shoulder at the hilly landscape rising up around me as I made my way. I was no longer in view of the bridge at the start of my trek. How far had I gone? It didn’t matter. Time didn’t matter. There’s nothing on the schedule today except my wellness.
Then, I slowed down a bit more.
I grabbed my little point-and-shoot camera from my pack and snapped pictures of lonely nesting boxes, withered grasses and fallen trees. I played with the light and shadows and told myself I need to make more time for photography. Noted. I took a drink of water as my gaze scanned the glimmers of sun washing over the brown trees and moved toward the wooden platform that promised a sweeping view of miles of Midwestern scenery.
I slowly climbed the steps.
As I gazed over the land linking Iowa to South Dakota, I took a long, lingering inhale and let the February sun warm my skin and fill my lungs. I need to do more of this I contemplated. Nature has always been nourishing and healing for me. And today, this was exactly what I needed.
Sometimes we just need to slow down.
Back down the path I went. I know, I know. Go slow. Be mindful. There’s no hurry. So I stopped to take a shadow selfie and play with a few settings on my camera. Deadlines can wait. Facebook notifications can linger. The laundry is unfolded. And my sink is full of dirty dishes. But, they can wait too because I’m doing something important. I’m listening to myself.
And, choosing to slow down.
Until next time,
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