I’m grateful my childhood was spent barefoot outdoors listening to birds, picking and eating raspberries straight from the bush, and practicing cartwheels and handstands until my feet and hands were caked with black dirt. I’m grateful for all that time making witch’s brew in mud puddles and pretending I could call the wind. I’m grateful my mom told me stories about plants; their likes and dislikes. I’m grateful for poor parents, for PBS, all our books, and the gift of boredom.
Ah, the days before Big Technology and having answers delivered in the blink of an eye.
Frances McDormand once expressed in an interview I read that she doesn’t like to use map apps because she needs to be able to find locations on her own. Or something of the like. I wish to God I would have saved whatever magazine I read this in (or was it online?). The point was, she valued her self-sufficiency; she’d rather get to a place by using her own senses and a glance at a map than by following the turn by turn instructions directed by a smartphone, so she could remember for the next time.
I’ve come to appreciate approaching this thing called “Wellness” the same way; by trusting my gut, having a healthy appreciation for safety guidelines, and walking the path with a sense of creative wonder. I say this after having spent several years reading A LOT within the wellness/new age/spirituality/self transformation genre. A year ago, my son once took me by the shoulders and lead me away from the “New Age” section of the book store because I did not need to read another new age book filled with answers and recipes and lists of exercises or meditations or mantras to try. He dropped me off in the fiction section. I needed to sink my roots back into the fertile ground of storytelling. Something to escape into. And he was right.
Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales.” Yes, indeed. I might add “empathetic”, too. Fairy tales (or fiction, for that matter) teach us about trust, patience, love, danger, wonder, grief, longing, coming of age, and so much more. We see the characters creatively solving problems. The answers, or morals of the story, aren’t given to us; we discover them by walking blindly down the path the storyteller has created for us. We put ourselves in the shoes of the protagonist and navigate with them a way through the twists of plot with our own senses and life references, our intuition about what to expect growing sharper with each story.
If we want to cultivate meaningful wellness in our lives, we must be willing to sometimes walk blindly down a path and trust our senses and intuition to help us find our way. We must remember the old stories.
This spring and summer I wish you a few days of doing absolutely nothing. I wish you afternoons of revisiting Hans Christian Andersen, Aesop and The Brothers Grimm. Or maybe J. K. Rowling, if you’d rather. And definitely PBS! I wish you a day (or more!) of not pulling up the answers on your phone. I wish you the pleasure that comes with walking barefoot in cool evening grass and counting fireflies with a child. I wish you a nose full of whatever lovely flora is blossoming in your area of the world and I hope it reminds you of a time when you spent hours outside happy as a lark, dirty, and calling upon the wind.
*While I still buy new age/spirituality books, I’m finding I need them less and less these days. But still. I love the genre.
**When my son led me to the fiction section of the store, I picked up a romance novel, a genre I don’t usually spend time in. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Not my jam but if it rocks your world, I’m happy for you!
***As far as romance-type writers go, I do enjoy Philippa Gregory. Just so you know.
****When I was young, the original Reading Rainbow and Once Upon a Time were my favorite shows on PBS.
*****Image credit: The artist is unknown but it comes from the Galaxy Gallery, two walls in an alleyway in Sandpoint, Idaho, featuring art from high school students and local artists.