Saturday, April 20, 2013

Spring Break!

This past week our schools have been closed for Spring Break and on Tuesday I hiked to a nearby waterfall for a time of quiet contemplation. I’ve been extremely busy for the last month – reports and meetings at work, new financial responsibilities at home, and self-imposed writing and blogging “obligations.” And so, in keeping with my “intention” for this year (think resolution but with less guilt), which was to strive for balance, I decided to tip the scales in the opposite direction and enjoy a time of leisure.

There is a lovely waterfall in Russian Gulch State Park, not far from where I live. I drove inland to catch a shortcut and hiked through the redwoods, breathing in the scent of new spring growth. Lush fog-tended ferns lined the trail and wild rhododendrons reached their spindly branches through a canopy of Douglas fir and redwoods. 

Western Trillium brightened the forest floor and the path was padded with last year’s needles and bark.

I brought my iPad along so I could take a few pictures. (Perhaps one day I’ll buy a camera.) I wanted a few shots for this blog post but I planned to slip the iPad into my backpack and ignore it for the most part. After all, the idea behind my hike was to retreat from responsibilities – self-imposed or otherwise.  But I got wrapped up in taking pictures and thinking of how I might use them on my blog or with my students. That made me start thinking of school and the reports that I’ll need to write next week. My mind skipped around between jobs to do at home and work, books I planned to read, friends I wanted to spend time with, and projects I planned to work on during my break.

When I arrived at the waterfall, I was delighted to find I had the place to myself. There are a couple rough hewn benches and I settled onto one, then grabbed my iPad to snatch a few pictures of the falls. 

I moved in for a close-up and the roar of the water spilling over rocks and around fallen trees was almost musical.

No, actually it was very musical. At first I thought my mind was playing tricks on me, but no, it was actual music I was hearing. I was disappointed, thinking my solitude was about to end. I assumed there were hikers approaching with a blaring radio but I was wrong. When I held the iPad up to get one last shot, the music grew louder. It was coming from my iPad.

Now I must tell you, I’ve never listened to music on my iPad before. I have over one hundred educational apps so I reserve the space for those and for photographs. But somewhere along the line, I must have downloaded this one album, Come Darkness, Come Light by Mary Chapin Carpenter. And somehow, with the glare on my iPad I didn’t notice that, out of my one hundred-plus apps, my finger hit the music icon, and started playing the third song on this album, “Still, Still, Still.” Those were actually the only words I could hear, “Still, still, still, (roar of water,) still, still, still.” It was a message I needed.

My scampering thoughts had crowded out any chance for contemplative ones, but that word, “still” stopped the internal whirr.  I walked over to the bench, turned off the music and slipped the iPad into my backpack. I sat for a moment before pulling out my journal. When I opened it, the first thing I saw was a quote I’d copied several months ago,

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10.

That was enough. I didn’t need to read further. I wrote a few notes in my journal and tucked it away so I could sit and enjoy the stillness.

Whatever your belief system, whatever your religion or lack thereof, we all need times to be still and enjoy the beauty of nature, time to reflect so that we can bring a richness to our relationships with others. Our students, children, families, readers and friends will all benefit when we nourish our souls.

Spring Break is almost over but my hope is that I’ll carry some of this stillness into the coming weeks. And I hope the same for you.


  1. Beautiful photos! I recently visited the Muir Woods and felt so at peace and calm there.