Thanksgiving is behind us, the end of the year is bearing down: it’s the time we start thinking about next year, the new year and what promise it might hold. About the opportunity to, if not reinvent ourselves, to work toward the version of ourselves we want to become, the image of us we’d like to see looking back in the mirror every morning.
Today’s Friday Nudge offers takes from last weekend to encourage you to get out this weekend. If you’re interested in the places mentioned, click appropriately for more information: Little River Regional Park, Harris Lake County Park, Horton Grove Nature Preserve. For additional hiking opportunities, visit our GetHiking! page.
Enjoy an adventurous weekend!
After two or three more turns onto roads of diminishing passabiity, the road narrowed into a path. I got out and started to walk. And then I stopped, transfixed, transported.
The scene was notable for its simple beauty. To the right of the path ran a mountain creek, its volume diminished by the dry fall, yet its soft gurgle was audible in the still air. Aspen dominated, their brilliant yellow leaves shimmered by the periodic breeze slipping down the front range. A stentorian cottonwood loomed 30 yards ahead, the understory and ground cover a mix of greens, even this deep into fall. For a moment, I had no clue where on Earth I was. I had no clue of anything, my mind washed, cleared, blank. It was, I would later realize, bliss.
It’s a place I frequently revisit, this vacuum at the foot of Colorado’s front range somewhere just west of Fort Collins. It’s the place I often go when I need to go somewhere, but can’t.
In “Desert Solitaire,” Edward Abbey talks about “the ideal place, the right place, the one true home.” For Abbey, his one true home was the desert Southwest, the Moab area in particular. For Abbey, the discovery of his “right place” came the first morning of his six-month stint as a seasonal park ranger “when I stepped out of my trailer — my caravan — to watch for the first time in my life the sun come up over the hoodoo stone of Arches National Monument. It was the plan that would mold Abbey and guide him as an environmental activist and anarchist for the rest of his life.
These places, these moments, can have a profound and lasting impact on our lives. Profound not in a “save-the-planet” way necessarily, but in a grounding way. The place you can retreat when you need to regroup. In reality when you can, in spirit when you can’t.
Owning such a place is one reason we explore. We explore to escape, and when we’re lucky, we stumble into these prolonged escapes. Escapes, because you needn’t be limited to one. Sometimes at my desk I slip off to the winter mountaintop meadows of Doughton Park, sometimes to remote Celo Knob, sometimes to the Bertram Trail and its scrambling ascent up Ledbetter Creek up to Cheoah Bald.
I know these right places immediately. I stop as I did that fall day nearly 40 years ago outside Fort Collins and am, for a moment, nowhere else — the ultimate destination.
“That’s great,” says Mitch. “But what’s the one thing?”
“That’s what you’ve got to figure out.”
The mystery of “the one thing” is what drove “City Slickers,” the 1991 comedy about three New Yorkers taking a dude ranch vacation to find the answer to life’s most persistent question: What is the meaning of life?
The answer is no mystery. It’s really pretty obvious. The meaning of life?
Last week, we shared a week’s worth of tips for living healthier in 2017. We offered specific tips (eat smart, eat simple), we offered philosophical tips (don’t just set a goal, set the right goal), we offered direction (in the form of First Day hikes to help you get your year off to an active start). But it all starts with being happy, because if the path you choose doesn’t make you happy, you won’t be on that path for long. Contrary to puritan ethics, happiness is not a demonic indulgence. It is the key to survival.
If you truly aim to be healthier in 2017, let happiness be your guide. There are a surprising number of ways to eat healthy and happy. Eat simple foods, sure, but indulge every once in a while. Experiment. As our blossoming awareness of food allergies attests, different foods work for different people. A happy body will let you know the diet you need to embrace. Listen.
The same with movement. The reason so many workout resolutions fail so quickly (most fizzle by the third week of January) is that they feel like just that, work. Being active is about so much more than sweating and losing weight: the physical benefits are important, but so are the mental benefits of a mind freed by movement (a mind that’s not so free when it’s focused on pain). One of the reasons we avidly promote hiking through our GetHiking! program is that even when a hike does feel like work, that work is often leading to a worthwhile goal: a mountaintop vista, a waterfall, an old-growth forest. Even then, the distractions of the woods — the solitude, the quiet — free your mind to go where it rarely gets the chance.
So if the cottage cheese diet is fulfilling, go for it. If working the Abdominizer puts a smile on your face, good for you. For you, those are the smart choices.
And the happy ones, too.
If you missed them, here are last week’s posts for a healthier 2017:
The following originally appeared on Jan. 5, 2011. It reappears today, tweaked and updated.
Move more and eat better in 2017 using these seven simple strategies:
1. Mix it up. The big trend in fitness isn’t one thing, it’s everything. Avoid drudgery, avoid stressing the same muscles and work your entire body by doing a variety of workouts. “Incorporating several different forms of exercise in a training program can be an excellent way to develop the various components of fitness,” according to the American Council on Exercise. If your goal is to lose weight, varying your exercise regimen — walking one day, lifting weights the next, taking a Zumba class after that — keeps your muscles from becoming too efficient at any one exercise and thus burning fewer calories.
2. Find what works. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t do it. Think, personal trainers advise, about what you like to do, or what you liked to do in the past. Did you love riding your bike as a kid? A preponderance of fun-to-ride bikes — from the aptly named “comfort” bikes to speedier and more aggressive urban bikes — has flooded the market, and with nearly 150 miles of greenway in the Triangle, it’s easy for the grown-up you to rekindle your childhood love. Or maybe you get so caught up in the joy of dance you don’t realize you’ve had a good workout until the following morning. Zumba, dance exercise with a Latin zing, and Nia, a marriage of dance, the martial arts and the “healing arts,” are two popular dance options.
3. Eat smart, eat simple. It’s a paradox, but the more we learn about food, the poorer we seem to eat. Good-eating advocate and author Michael Pollan writes in his latest book, “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual,” “for all the scientific and pseudoscientific food baggage we’ve taken on in recent years, we still don’t know what we should be eating.” Pollan, whose “In Defense of Food” and
“The Omnivore’s Dilemma”