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The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.
One of the best parts of hosting this podcast is all of the incredible authors and thinkers I get to talk to as a part of new episodes. I always, always take away some kind of inspiration for me while gathering inspiration for you.
In season 7 one of those authors was Gretchen Rubin, my OG Humans Outside 365 challenge inspiration. I knew I wanted to do a challenge, but I wasn’t quite sure how to organize it in my mind, so I looked to her book The Happiness Project for some ideas. I walked away with the idea of looking at my outdoor time through the lens of benefits. That, in turn, shaped what I do on this podcast.
Gretchen’s newest book looks at what you can find in your world — indoors and outdoors – when you lean into your five sense. We sat down to talk about Life in 5 Senses on a podcast episode, which I’ll link in the show notes of this episode. And I walked away from that wondering what I would find if I simply spent more time noticing outdoor things through each of the senses — seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, hearing.
This week I leaned into my sense of sight.
Sight is a funny thing. It’s probably our easiest sense to notice because it’s what adds literal color to our lives. And since outside is so interesting and constantly changing — something former guests Cordele Glass and Max Romey both talked about — it has the wonderful benefit of sparking creativity and inspiration. That happens through seeing it.
But when was the last time I really SAW nature around me, really leaned into that experience and noticed the things I can see, and then thought about what I am seeing? I’m talking more than yup there’s some leaves. I’m talking about really looking at those leaves, at the shape, at the size — really marveling in the minutia up close and at the grandeur when you step back. And doing this with the things that are around you all of the time.
Sight is something that easily sparks awe — a feeling that another former podcast guest, Mike Rucker, and I really explored in an episode last year. And that awe is a little easier to find when you see something completely new outside. It’s transcendent, almost. But what if you could find awe in the every day things you’ve seen 100 times by simply stopping and noticing them? How would that make you feel?
It’s something I tried to do this week — and what I felt on the other side of seeing was gratitude.
It went like this. On a run on a path I’ve been on dozens of times, I my eyes told my brain to see how the leaves and trees created a lovely wooded tunnel. I saw the wildflowers on the path and appreciated their colors. My eyes saw some rose bushes and told my body to please not touch them because they are a little pokey.
On a rainy day my eyes saw the way the drops hit the puddles, creating this round spot around the impact point. I saw the reflection of trees in those puddles and of my own self looking at it all.
Driving to the grocery store I saw the mountains around my small town. I found myself feeling a combo of awe and calm noting how massive they are, but how consistent. I noticed the shapes in the rock — fractals. It was a little mesmerizing to be honest. I had to focus on the road.
I felt deeply grateful for all of this complexity and beauty around me. It made me feel open to gratitude for other stuff in my life.
Then there was a day that I was feeling very irritated — tired, up too late the night before, sore legs from a workout, probably deeply in need of a snack as is my habit, dumb stuff going on outside my control like a sick kid or unresponsive work contacts. My eyes saw things that added to my irritation. Rain clouds — again. Those stupid cottonwood fluffs floating everywhere STILL after what has seemed like ages and ages of it. The giant mess my kids left on the porch on top of the giant mess the cottonwood creates.
But then, after a snack probably because that sounds like me, I remembered how the crew that made the documentary film we’re in — I’ll link that in the show notes too — found the falling cottonwood so magical that they featured it in the movie. These are New York City people and they dont know that the rest of find it absolutely not magical. But it made me stop and think about the things that I noticed when I first came here that I probably now take for granted or find terrible. And while I won’t say my cottonwood attitude shifted entirely, I did stand and use my sense of sight to watch it fall for awhile, and thought yeah, ok, it is kind of cool looking.
And, yet again, I felt gratitude.
Next for me is sense of hearing and Ill report back after I lean into that. But I hope you take some time now to go and really notice your sense of sight. What do you see? What does it make you feel? Follow Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram. And share a photo with me with #humansoutside365. Also maybe eat a snack while you’re doing it — it’s a real mood booster.
Until next time, we’ll see you out there.