Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Easing Brain Fatigue

Talking about his life's end-in-view, an elderly friend today described his childhood as that of an "Aborigine in the Everglades." When he heard someone say at the end of a work day that he was tired, he asked, "Then why go to work?" When a teacher told him to do something he didn't want to, he didn't do it. He has always been, as he says, an "iconoclast."

This conversation floated in my mind as I floated in my tub (three fillings, 50 minutes). I kept thinking, Indeed. Why do anything if the end-product is exhaustion rather than renewal?

I have lived in a number of cities, most recently one that assaulted my safety (at the corner a woman was carjacked, just beyond one was murdered), my sense of fairness (those who had took care of their own and left those who had not to destitute poverty), even my senses (I could not sit in my own backyard without being penetrated by someone else's pounding rap music or fists). The city was a beautiful chaotic place, but its beauty increasingly surrendered to my dis-ease.

And then I came to the country, where I sit on my deck and listen to woodpeckers ramming into hole-y trees or deer choughing and stamping, or walk into woods and see no one all day long, or greet strangers on the sidewalk and slide into easy conversation, or spend an hour -- if I wish -- lying in grass, trying to take a single focused photo of a tiny weedy flower.

Perhaps I have returned to my own version of an aboriginal childhood spent in a home backed by forest and fronted by creek. Unlike the Edinburgh researchers and volunteer subjects featured in a recent New York Times article, I have needed no portable EKG wired to my brain to know what they can prove: "green spaces" provide "ease [of] brain fatigue" that cultivates soft fascination.

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