When we lived in Brooklyn, for many years we were within walking distance of Prospect Park. There was one particular spot in the park, near a small waterfall, where you could imagine you were outside the city. It was in a small ravine and you could see nothing but scraggly trees and sky. I’d go running there a few times a week and always took a break at that spot. Sometimes I’d be the only one there, and I could hear the burbling water, or a nuthatch making its way up a tree. I craved that little bit of peace, and it made me angry when inevitably an airplane jackhammered through the sky overhead, or someone came through talking on their cell phone, their unleashed dog snuffling through the underbrush.
Now I find myself living near Frick Park in Pittsburgh. It’s big and wild with unpaved paths. Often when I walk there I am alone for stretches. Twice I’ve seen deer.
Lately I’ve had trouble relaxing. Being home all day with twin babies there is some tightening in my body I can’t shake. I find myself lying in bed at night completely wound up, worrying about things, still in the place physically and mentally where I am all day.
Last week on a walk in the park I stopped and put my hand on a tree. It was a young tree, cool to the touch, the smooth bark rough in patches. It was like it sucked the stress out of me. I felt calm. On the way home I put my hand on a big London plane tree, but it was on the street and I immediately felt self conscious, worried that I was touched and then felt more stressed. I’m telling you though, trees. Do it when no one’s around.