Three lessons from the outdoors for Election Day

It’s election day. Breathe deep.

Everyone else tired? We’re tired. We made a valiant effort to keep the election as a dull roar for our kids and I think we pretty much succeeded. I wish I could say the same for myself, as all the general anxiety floating about the place has me strung pretty tight.

The sense of anxiety these days is palpable. You can actually feel it, like a really thick fog, and it’s affecting everything. I’ve had to pretty much cut myself off from social media and the news, not because I was getting angry at people but because I simply needed to not think about it for a bit.

But now it’s Election Day. The most anxious of them all. So how are we going to get through it?

I was thinking about this last night and I realized I had learned three very good lessons recently, all having to do with the outdoors, and all in just the last few days. Turns out, while I was busy refreshing poll results, nature was conspiring to teach me a few things.

Community is the answer

This past weekend, the kids and I participated in our traditional Take Pride in Acadia Day. It’s the volunteer day where hundreds of people show up to prep Acadia National Park’s carriage roads for winter. It can be fun, but it’s long, hard, cold work and it was especially cold this year. When I saw 29 degrees on my house thermometer, at the end of a very, very long week, I was prepared for lots of whining and a very long day. In fact, I thought about scrapping the plan entirely.

Instead, we got out there and discovered we’d been grouped up with a bunch of kids. No boring adults-only rake like in years past, this time my kids got to pal around with old friends and make some new ones. A group of older kids kept everyone entertained by inventing a “leaf bomb” system (if you want to liven up a chore, invite a passel of middle schoolers to help). Our group leader turned out to have an endless supply of granola bars hidden in her pockets. My son took to making big piles of leaves and then gathering others to pretend they were rhinoceroses pushing them into the woods (a big hit with the under 8 crowd).

So instead of a cold, grumpy morning of raking we ended up with a pretty bonded group of happy, pink-cheeked kids and adults. Oh, yeah, and the carriage roads looked good, too. All we had to do was show up, shine up our attitudes, and work together.

Friends of Acadia Take Pride

It will be better than you think

Yesterday afternoon, I put off my regular afternoon walk much later than normal. I normally aim for the “shortly after lunch” time frame, but yesterday, watching wind blow and remembering how chilly it had  been in the morning, I let that time slide right by. It was three o’clock before I realized it would be dark soon, sighed, put on my jacket, and headed out.

It was glorious. Chilly, yes, but the low sun and yellow leaves made the air absolutely glow. I scuffed through piles of leaves on the ground like a kid, embracing how ridiculously loud I was being. The wind had died down and the air felt fresh, clean and refreshing. I walked back to the office regretful that I couldn’t keep going, but feeling 100% more alive and engaged.

Outdoor lessons

I’m not naturally much of an optimist, but even I can be taught to see the bright side.

It’s bigger than us

Last night when I got home, it was pitch black. I took my jacket off and started on my boots when my husband asked if I had gotten the mail. I sighed, because our mailbox is all the way at the end of our road, a short but significant two-tenths of a mile when it’s dark and 30 degrees.

“Let’s walk down,” my daughter said. “I’ll come with you and we’ll have a night walk.”

So we rummaged around for gear that was both warm and reflective, grabbed a flashlight, and headed out into the night. We played with the flashlight and chatted, and after she said something that made me laugh I glanced up and gasped.

“Look at the stars!” I said. And there they were, spread out above us, sparkling with that clarity they get only once we turn the corner to winter.

“They are so beautiful,” she said.

“We are so tiny,” I thought.

We’re all just spinning around down here, making our little messes, while up above and all around, it all just keeps going.

So what to do on Election Day? How about:

Engage with your community?

Take a walk and breathe?

Look up?

And remember: this is all just a tiny little moment. There are bigger things out there.

Cherie Galyean

About Cherie Galyean

In a perfect world, Cherie Galyean would spend hours every day chasing her kids up hiking trails, pretending to garden, and baking things. Instead, she works full-time in the non-profit sector and fits those other things in-between loads of laundry in her free time. A Maine native with multiple hometowns, she currently lives on Mount Desert Island with her husband, seven-year-old daughter, five-year-old son, and the best shelter mutt in the world.