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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Hayden

Thoreau was on to something...

I hadn't explored the outdoors much until I moved to Washington State. My first hike was in 2014. It was a relatively easy one and I still couldn't finish the whole thing because I was so out of breath. To my credit, it was steep, but still quite revelatory in how inexperienced I was with hiking and physical activity in general. The exercise part has not changed much (usually my idea of exercise is the walk from the car to a restaurant to pick up my food) but Washington as a whole is so stunning that one cannot help but be drawn to its landscape.

This weekend, I've had my first few days entirely all to myself since some trips I took in 2018. In short, it's been a while. I've been pretty productive at home (though I strayed a bit and watched like four Seinfeld episodes) but I also drove to Bellingham, WA today because I'd been wanting to go for a while just for a short escape. I steered around the city mostly, turning left and right with no particular destinations in mind, just taking in the view from my car with good music playing in the background. I saw some really cool things just by chance. But I did actually make a list too, and I picked two places off of it so I could make a couple stops. Unfortunately, one garden was closed already ("for the winter" the sign said), but the other place, Whatcom Falls Park, was open and peaceful and great. The temperature was in the low 60s today (ideal for me) and the sky was slightly overcast (also ideal; yes I know I'm unusual in my preference of clouds over blaring sunlight). I went on a short hike and immersed myself in lush greenery, dwarfed by tall trees, two of which were very beautiful in the way they were bonded to each other. The sound of the small waterfalls and brooks was comforting. I took a few pictures with my camera (one decent; four shitty) and shot a video on my phone. It felt really good to be there and really good to be alone. And not just alone, but without any place to be or any time limits imposed.

In my usual roundabout way, I will connect this to writing in a moment: author Henry David Thoreau's most famous work, Walden, is an exploration of self-imposed solitude. In real life, Thoreau built a cabin in the woods and lived there alone for two years, two months, and two days. Introspection and a connection to nature were among his primary goals. I thought of him today as I walked, though I am far from that ambitious. But just getting out in nature, as a writer—or really anyone, not just artistic people—is a positive thing. Research supports this; I'm not just on some New Agey shit. I wish I could say I came up with some grand idea on my hike, but I didn't. But what I did get was a feeling of stillness, a connection to the woodlands, and a gentle push to do this alone more often. And I guess it did help with writing because here I am, back home and blogging.

P.S. You may remember seeing Thoreau here already; he is quoted on my website's homepage. A small part of that quote is also tattooed on my ribcage. So, yeah...Thoreau fan here.

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