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Spring Gillard
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Sauntering & Centering

maynearbutusI was reading a little book by Ellen Petrick and Michael Day while I was on Mayne Island. It was about planning outdoor residential education programs; the authors describe a program in Yellowstone National Park. It made me want to go to Yellowstone. The motivation behind holding programs in wilderness areas is to connect people with the land. It is hoped that heightening the connection will translate into a desire to preserve our wild spaces. In this particular program, the staff always introduce relaxation techniques to their residents, not only to help them unwind, but also to sharpen their senses. It is particularly important to be alert in the wild, although I would argue it’s important to be focused no matter your surroundings.

The book is not only instructional, it’s poetic, with poetry and prose throughout. As a nature lover and writer, Thoreau is often cited. He loved to walk at a saunter pace, slowing down to take everything in. Thoreau encouraged people to look in all directions, up, down, sideways, for you never know what you might find. Perhaps inspired by Thoreau, biologists discovered a microorganism in the hot springs at Yellowstone. The organisms contain an enzyme that led to the development of a process called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) that allows scientists to study DNA.

As they say in the book, there is something about being out in nature that is so restorative. I created my own nature residency on Mayne Island and easily slipped into saunter mode.

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