On Little Things

Humans love big things.

We’ve been internally programmed so that greatness of size takes our breath away. 

Throughout the history of mankind, magnitude was might.  From pyramids of Egypt to the Roman Empire, large proportions were sought after and valued.

Still today, being big is a strong Western value.  “Supersize me!” as the fast food chain saying goes.  But material pursuits aside, we have the tendency to appreciate the vast, even in nature.

 Giant mountains, sprawling vistas, and gaping canyons make our heart pump faster.  Walking 2 kilometers on a trail seems like a yawn to any serious hiker: the longer the trail, the better…right?

Perhaps this is because, when something is really huge we can’t really possess it – at least not all at once. That weeklong trail or panoramic vista takes work to experience. This fact leads to an internal tension: we see it and desire it but can only dream of making it truly our own.

But much of the time, our focus on all things vast makes us unable to stop and appreciate the tiny worlds of beauty that are all around us.

Whenever I stop and focus in, I notice things. Sonic green moss, fuzzy like a terry cloth towel, grows in patches on mottled grey rock. Acorns, large and small, lay in puddles, their gentle curves reflected in the water. There are worlds of pine needles, bright yellow mushrooms – some spongy and some papery. And insects – beautiful and weird looking bugs make their homes under rocks and between blades of grass, right at my feet.

American philosopher and nature lover Henry David Thoreau was known to spend hours staring at just one puddle.  Seems strange?  There’s a lot to see and appreciate in there, if you take the time to focus in.

Looking at nature in this way is more of a meditation than a conquest.  It gives your mind a chance to adjust its rhythm to the pace of the natural world.  And be touched by its intricacy. 

I struggle with this myself. To me, bigger is better…the more trail, the merrier. So to combat this urge, I always stop mid-hike for a breakfast break. Somehow, holding a tin cup of hot coffee in hand helps me slow down my pace… and focus in on the earth.

Slow walks are not for everyone.  Maybe you will take a short, wandering walk (especially likely if you have young kids!). But next time you hike any trail, make an effort to stop and study the incredible terrain that’s right under your nose.  Appreciating the little things will change the way you experience our world.

A tiny world of beauty.

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