Posted March 27, 2020
Written by Kyla Isakson
March 22, 2020 at the Center Hill Preserve in Plymouth, MA
Despite the cold and windy weather, I took some time to be mindful of nature and practice social distancing at the Center Hill Preserve in Plymouth, MA, with my mom and sister. We decided to go on this adventure because we were all itching to get out of the house and enjoy some much needed time outside. First, we walked the trail that led to the ocean, where we spent time looking for sea glass and seeing what interesting things we could find. I decided to look along the wrack line to see what types of seaweed, rocks, and other items I noticed. The farther we got from the trail head, the more I could smell the strong, salty odor of what had washed ashore. I took some time to watch and listen to the waves, which came roaring towards the coast. With a dynamic natural community like the seashore, it was easy to engage all my senses.
As we walked back to the trail head against the wind, the cold air pierced my face, but it was also refreshing. After spending most of the week in my house, I felt recharged by the fresh air, even if I couldn’t feel my face. Some highlights of the items I noticed were four different bird feathers, three types of seaweed, and two pieces of trash, and one piece of sea glass. Having grown up on the south shore and having pursued a degree in Marine Science in Florida, I would say that going to the beach is more than just a fun pastime for me. It is a place for exploration and discovery, relaxation and healing. Simply smelling the ocean air or watching the waves puts me at ease and improves my mood. I’ve always felt drawn to the ocean and its many positive qualities, so walking on the beach was just what I needed after this hectic week.
To escape the whipping wind on the seashore, we crossed the street to venture into the woods along the hiking trail. As my sister and I walked ahead, we heard a loud shriek behind us. My mom had seen a deer standing less than 10 feet from the trail! While we were too busy looking at the ground, we had failed to notice a calm and magnificent creature grazing next to us on the trail, completely unfazed by three people making noise and walking in its home. This was a great example of how being more aware of our surroundings would have allowed us to more calmly notice this animal; however, our startled awareness did not take away from us appreciating its beauty. After taking a moment to observe, we continued on the trail.
After being reminded to be aware of our surroundings, we set out to take notice of more signs of life. Though we could not hear much as we hiked past the wind turbine, I did find signs of a woodpecker. There was a large pile of bark under a tree with small holes dug out throughout each piece. As I looked up at the tree, I saw more holes covering the rest of the tree bark. The entire tree seemed to have been scoured for food by woodpeckers.
We kept walking and reached the cranberry bog. It was a short distance from where we had stopped before, but the soundscape had changed drastically. It quickly transitioned from the whirl of the wind turbine to a chorus of spring peepers. As we approached the cranberry bog, the frogs quieted due to our intrusion. We stood still for a few minutes, hoping to hear them call again. After a few attempts of inching closer to where they seemed to be, we were able to catch them in full concert. We could hear the call and response going on across the bog; the only other sounds we could hear were the wind rustling the leaves and the distant call of a bird. It was just us and the frogs. We followed their calls as we walked the perimeter of the bog, stopping frequently to hear them call again. We had entered their home, and they didn’t seem to mind as long as we were quiet.
It was not my plan, but my walk in nature was focused on sounds. I found myself paying particular attention to the wind blowing past my ears, the waves crashing along the rocky shoreline, the wind turbine working to provide cleaner energy, and the chorus of spring peepers calling to each other across a silent cranberry bog. Taking these moments to stop and listen made me feel more connected to nature. I felt like a welcomed guest in the environment, as long as I was respectful of this home to many. Next time you take a walk in your backyard, around your neighborhood, or on a hiking trail, take a minute to stand still and listen to the world around you. You never know what you might notice.
I hope that you too can find a sense of peace and reconnect to the environment during this time of uncertainty. Stay safe and stay calm.
Want to practice mindfulness on your own at the beach? Check out our Oceanside Mindfulness Practices!