By Jack Steward
Have you ever been out and about during the day and just stopped to listen? Even as I write this piece, I hear the sound of dump trucks, traffic and an occasional police siren. Our lives are full of noise. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. The hustle and bustle of everyday is what drives a lot of us to succeed. I live in the beach cities outside of Los Angeles, California and I'll admit that it feels good to be driving down the freeway on the way to a meeting, or looking out my window at night to see the glowing lights of the city, but I am the type of person that needs a break from the chaos.
It is the peace I find in nature that keeps me grounded. To me it is not only a shared experience, but a very personal one as well. When I lived in Montana I would sometimes head up to Glacier National Park on a Saturday all by myself. As a college student, I was constantly searching for somewhere I felt I belonged. The second I entered the park I felt like I was home! Even though I still had my insecurities, I would look up at the mountains and know I was right where I was supposed to be. The silence allowed me to think about the choices I was making and in turn see myself in a new light. I was no longer this college kid who was trying to figure life out, but instead looking at all of the possibilities that life had to offer.
One of my favorite things in life is the smell of pine trees when you're out in the mountains. I don't know how to describe it, it's just got that mountain smell. It first started for me as a kid when our family would visit Yellowstone. Later, when I moved to Montana, it was that smell that reminded me of those great times growing up and how lucky I was to be living my dream. I know now that this wasn't just a smell that I liked; it was that feeling of peace and belonging. Today, Every now and then I'll find myself walking down a street in Los Angeles and will pick up a whiff of that scent. I can't help but smile a little and think the very same thing: I'm right where I am supposed to be.
Whenever life becomes overwhelming I tend to want to hide out. I think as humans we become accustomed to our homes and the safety we find there. Again, this is not a bad thing. I have learned, however, that when I get stressed out it means I need to get out into nature. A long drive through the woods or a hike through the mountains is the perfect catalyst for self-reflection and realization. It is when I get out into nature that I realize that the problems I'm facing aren't as big as I had made them out to be. Or maybe they are, but still there is so much positivity in this world! Nowhere is that more apparent than when you are surrounded by nature.
I had this realization once when I drove up into the Angeles National Forest outside of LA. I had just moved to the area and the idea of trying to make it as a television producer was really scary to me. The road kept taking me higher into the mountains. Finally I parked on the side of the road to check out the view. When I got out of the car I saw the skyline of Los Angeles - the center of all the uncertainty and stress I was feeling. But right next to me was the most magnificent pine tree that I had seen in a long time. I realized that if such a beautiful thing could thrive within this city, then maybe I can too.
It is in nature that I find the confidence to become the person that I feel I am called to be. It has constantly been there to inspire and push me to new heights. In the best of times, it is a place to get out and play! It's a place to soak in those rays of light and have the time of your life. But nature can also give you a place to work through some of the problems that seem to weigh you down. All in all, I have found that in nature – I find peace.