We often put blinders on horses to keep them from being distracted by anything not directly in front of them. We tell ourselves this is just for horses and neglect to see the blinders we wear in our daily lives.
Five years ago I gave up my car and found an entire world. I realized that as I zipped along the roads in my car I was living with blinders on, missing the little things only slowing down will reveal. Within days of being car-free my memories of life before car ownership came back to me. Those memories were from more than thirty years prior but were as vivid as if they happened yesterday.
I loved walking around town, catching the bus to the dock to then catch the ferry to ride across the lake to the beaches. There was a small park a block from my house that I walked to regularly. I recalled the weeping willow I used to sit under with a book and pick at the wild strawberries around me.
There was the corner store that had an ice cream counter I would stop at after work when I got off the bus. I stopped visiting for ice cream when I bought my car as it wasn’t a convenient to find a parking spot as it was to walk across the street.
I now realized I missed those days yet it was no ones fault but my own. I’d traded leisurely walks for stressful traffic and didn’t realize my life was worse for it.
In the Nature Principle, Andrew Przybylski, is quoted as saying, ” Nature in a way strips away the artifices of society that alienate us from one another.”
But here I am, older and maybe a bit wiser. I no longer desire to own a vehicle. I see the flower beds up close that I didn’t realize were there even though I traveled that road almost daily. I see the number of butterflies and small animals killed from the impact with automobiles, and my heart breaks every time. I feel the breezes, smell the exhaust (which I usually find myself holding my breath as not to be assailed with exhaust fumes today) as well as the cut grass. I meet people I wouldn’t have met if I hadn’t given up my car. My world opened up after making one simple change in my life.
Since that day of giving away my car and noticing the changes in myself I made other changes. I incorporated more silence in my home. I no longer need music or other background noise to be content and now listen to the birds or my own inner thoughts. I’ve grown as a result and even at my age am learning more about myself and how I fit in the natural world I came from.
When we simplify our lives we are left with the time to stop and see the world that exists outside that narrow focus our blinders allowed us to see. If you can’t or aren’t ready to simplify your life you can still take a few minutes to reconnect and look at the world without blinders. As you come home from work, instead of rushing into the house stand there for a few minutes and just listen. Look up at the sky, notice the clouds, or close your eyes and see what you notice without the distraction of your vision.
I meet many people of all ages who are still wearing blinders. They don’t see where the groundhog holes are, they don’t feel the change in the barometer that signals a rain storm, they don’t realize there is a smell to the air when rain is imminent. Even those people who live without a car and walk everywhere miss these things, they instead have their eyes, or ears, glued to their phones to pass the time while walking.
Last week we were told to expect a severe thunderstorm. I wanted to enjoy some time outside before the rains arrived. I took a book out onto my deck and while engrossed in the book I soon felt the change in the air pressure, I felt the wind change direction and knew in my bones the time to go inside for safety had arrived.
I placed my bookmark in my book and headed for the door. Just as I reached for the handle of the storm door a strong wind tore a good-sized branch from the tree that had been above me while I read. The branch landed right where I had been sitting. As I crossed the threshold to enter the house the sky opened up and the rain fell violently. As I closed the door I heard neighbors anxiously trying to round up their children to get them to safety, the storm had taken them by surprise because they were distracted by other things.
I want to introduce all children I meet to the wonders of nature. I want them to know trees feel pain (read the Hidden Secrets of Trees to learn more), I want them to feel and smell the impending rain, to know the names of the bugs and critters in their area and love looking for them. I want them to know their neighbors as well. In sharing the world with them I hope they won’t willingly wear blinders as they move through life.
Let’s take off the blinders and see the gifts life has to offer.