My bike ride each day in the Adirondack Mountains last week would start on a paved road where I’d pass a few log cabins that are bigger than my house. Then the paved road turned to dirt, the cabins turned to shacks and everything got quiet.
I’d smell delicious whiffs of balsam trees and feel the crisp mountain air – weightless after the heavy humidity we left in the Lehigh Valley. Sometimes I’d catch sight of young whitetail bucks with the beginnings of antlers. The cabins on that road were a mishmash – some as neat as a pin with freshly mowed grass next to others that were so overgrown they appeared to have been swallowed by the forest.
Modernity shared quarters with yesteryear: cabins with satellite dishes were neighbors of those with outhouses. Some showed no signs of life, others teemed with stuff: lawn ornaments and ATVs, power tools, toys and sheds. One had a sign at the door saying, “No peeing from the porch” – an admonition that hadn’t occurred to me would require signage.
Residents with a condo association mentality for strictly regimented housing could start a war in a place like that.
But it was also on that road I started to regain my senses—to begin to really look at my surroundings and listen for the sounds of the forest and the lakes, to delight in the different smells – the balsam trees, a horse paddock, smoke from a fire pit.
Like a lot of people, too much of my regular life is lived on autopilot, my head down immersed in deadlines and schedules and habits. My surroundings become the equivalent of white noise.
If you live permanently in a beautiful place do you appreciate it every day or do you lose those heightened senses after a while? Do you still revel in the way the sun shimmers on the lake, the evening symphony of the water lapping against the dock and the loon’s call? Or does it become ho-hum—the Muzak of life?
Albert Einstein said: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
I’m not sure it’s possible for people like me to live in a perpetual state of wonder. But a week in the crisp mountain air next to a glimmering lake makes you realize what’s lost when you allow your default position to be sense-less.