I'm about halfway through the #30inNature Challenge, in which I've aimed to spend 30 minutes a day in nature for the 30 days of September. I've missed one day (sorry) but have otherwise been hitting the city parks during the week, and the woods/meadows/ponds/streams et al on the weekends.
In the country this challenge isn't even a challenge, but in the city it's proving to be tough. My rules for what makes nature are simple: a green space that's more unpaved than paved, and has trees. I’m lucky to live within a 15 minute walk of two city parks that meet this requirement, but have been struggling with how I feel during my 30 minutes there.
I'm finding myself being very judge-y and huffy every time a bus heaves up the street, with every construction sound. Every car alarm sends my brow scrunching, and starts me muttering to myself about how much I wished I was somewhere else. A specific somewhere, i.e. the Catskills. Because the park is barely nature; there are only three types of birds (pigeons, house sparrows, starlings) for fuck’s sake!
I recognized early on that this fury was entirely not the point of this experiment. So this week I added something to my city nature time - a ten minute guided meditation to help with some of my rage-itude. It mellowed me out a bit but I still felt annoyed when a woman with a sobbing infant sat down next to me. (In my defense, there were like 10 other empty benches.)
This week has been a stressful one. I’m still recovering from surgery, and a big freelance gig just came to a head, resulting in more 16 hour work days than I’d like to count. I'm staying in the city while Matt and Pancho went upstate for a boys’ weekend, with an aim of getting caught up with more work. (Cue grumbles.)
Tonight at dusk, I dragged myself off the couch and walked to the park. I was feeling sorry for myself, and wishing I could be upstate watching the bats come out. I love watching them.
Feeling lonely and overworked (two of the worst adult feelings), the twilight reminded me, as it often does, of summer when I was a kid, and fighting the advancing darkness for just five more minutes.
I was staring up at the tree tops when I saw it: a bat. I gasped as it made several loops through the quadrant of the park where I was, swooping and diving occasionally, and getting lost in the leaves above my head. It flew in the canopy above me for several minutes. I wanted to tell someone to look up and see it, but for once, there was no one around.
I didn’t know bats lived in cities (though duh, Batman) but of course, they do. As I leaned against a tree trunk watching its acrobatics, I realized that in my desire to fully immerse myself in every experience, to really do the things I'm doing, I often neglect what is merely enough. “The perfect is the enemy of the good,” is something I should consider tattooing on my forehead.
On my way home I saw the Harvest Moon rising over Manhattan. I stopped in the middle of the street to watch it. I called to man who was crossing, “Hey, look at the moon!” and he ignored me and didn’t see it.
It’s called the Harvest Moon because its brightness combined with the lateness of its rising meant that farmers could work late into the evening, gathering by moonlight. I read about a ritual for the Harvest Moon: build an altar, and harvest symbols of your life, and the colors crimson and gold.
I consider what I can gather by moonlight, and that what I can gather here tonight is not perfect, but it is good, and that is enough.