By Will Morrow
For the Peninsula Clarion
I’ve started calling them my “Robert Frost” moments — those calm, quiet times when I have a minute to reflect on the important things, like my place in the universe, or what we’re having for dinner tonight.
If you’re not familiar with Robert Frost, you’ve probably at least heard some of his poetry. “The Road Not Taken” starts with the line, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” ends with the line “And miles to go before I sleep.” For a more contemporary reference, Frost’s poem “Fire and Ice” is said to have been part of George R.R. Martin’s inspiration for his “Game of Thrones” series, “A Song of Fire and Ice.”
As an aside, I hope that Martin finishes his series soon. I didn’t watch the TV series, but I started reading the books over the summer to see what all the buzz was about. I assumed that since the TV series had concluded, he must have finished the books, too. I was wrong — but I digress.
Anyway, many of Frost’s poems include somebody out in a natural setting, pondering existence. These days, it is a theme that speaks to me.
I don’t know about everyone else, but I’ve been feeling more stressed than usual over the past few months. I couldn’t tell you if there’s something specific, like the pandemic, or the election, or whether my truck’s little oil drip is the sign of a bigger problem. Probably all of the above. I can’t even watch anything overly dramatic on TV before bedtime — there are enough real-world things to stress about, and I don’t need to wake up at 2 a.m. worried about some fictitious character’s problems, too.
I’ve found that the best way for me to cope with stress is a nice dose of nature therapy. Whether it’s a walk on the beach, a mountain bike ride, or, now that we have some nice snow, a ski on the trails, I always feel better after getting outside, even for just an hour.
For me, getting outside for a mental health minute is a little different than doing the same activity as part of a fitness regimen. It’s not that I go any slower (I go plenty slow in either case), but when I’m working out what’s going on in my brain, I’m definitely not thinking about pedaling cadence or heart rate or ski technique.
In fact, there have been a few times where I’ve finished my ride or ski and realized I’ve actually gone faster than anticipated. Those are days when the ideas are flowing, and my body seems to react in kind.
But there’s lots of times where my activity involves putting things on pause, taking deep breaths and pondering which path to take, or all the promises to keep — my “Robert Frost” moments that mean more than simply picking which trail to take back to the parking lot.
I’ll keep any answers I’ve found to the big questions to myself, but I will share this: as we move into the new year, my wish is for all of you to find the space you need to decompress, relax, and ponder questions great and small.
And, while you’re pondering, if you’ve got any good suggestions for dinner tonight, I’ll take those, too.
Will Morrow lives in Kenai. Reach him at email@example.com.