It happened again last night.
January bestowed Hawaii with the gift of rain for much of the month. And, then, once the air had been scrubbed clean, the interior mountains stood tall for whole days on end without a single cloud circling their peaks. When this happens, the folds of distant ridges and valleys sizzle with clarity and nature's artistry is so perfect that we could be living inside a Hollywood set. It's worth the weeks of intermittent rain and cloudy skies. It must be what Punxsutawney Phil will feel like tomorrow, Groundhog Day, when he emerges from his burrow.
According to Walt Whitman, "The human mind is capable of excitement without the application of gross and violent stimulants."
I've known both. Excitement buoyed up with the help of, say, wine. Sometimes tequila. And another kind. I've found the first to be more socially acceptable. But the second, the high that comes from solitary time in nature, I've found that particular high makes people look at me funny.
I returned home last night from a long walk on a remote beach on Kauai's north shore, and my husband's gaze sent me to the mirror. Was there sand plastered to my cheek from laying face-down on the beach to get that Hawaiian monk seal picture? Were there ironwood needles sticking out of my hair from where I reclined on my back to capture Laysan albatross soaring overhead? Or were there horns growing out of my head? Because that's how I felt. As if I had to contain my excitement. Because it was wrong. My altered, non-drug-induced high was a little off, wasn't it? Doctors don't prescribe nature for depression. We don't rush to the woods when Friday night rolls around, and it's time to party.
Maybe we should. In fact, isn't that why we flee to a tropical paradise like Hawaii for vacation? For adventure. For relaxation. For our mental health.
According to a Natural News article published last fall, numerous scientific studies point to nature as a way to relieve depression and stress
while increasing self esteem. The article's author, Ben Hirshberg, wrote, "A 2009 study from the University of Rochester found that when study participants were exposed to pictures of nature, they were more likely to list connectedness and community high as life aspirations over wealth and fame than when the participants were exposed to urban pictures."
Another study cited by Hirshberg, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, found that study subjects who were assigned to rooms with a view of nature reported less aggression and greater productivity in their lives.
As the slide show of images from January illustrates, I manage to seek and find nature in my life here in Hawaii, and after reading of the benefits, you can rest assured I'll continue to do so. Pfft. I didn't need any scientific studies to tell me this. Although they are a comforting justification.
And the next time someone looks at me as if I have horns growing out of my head, I'm going to refrain from checking my reflection in the mirror for defects. Instead, I'm going to say. "Nope. Not horns. It's a unicorn."