I have an eco-confession to make. I am a Sunday driver. I loooove getting in the car and driving along back country roads on the weekend when I have the chance just to wander aimlessly. Southern Indiana is truly beautiful and I love exploring farms and forests and tiny towns.
Alas, I feel guilty wasting gas and celebrating pavement. I may drive a Prius with excellent gas mileage but it’s still not ecoconscious to go for a joyride. Beyond that, I’ve also realized that watching the world through my windshield separates me from truly experiencing the places I drive through.
Yesterday I did a little better – I went Sunday driving with a purpose. My mom and I signed on as citizen scientists with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources this winter. More specifically, we signed on to be eagle watchers, which involves driving out to Lake Monroe to make observations. There are a surprising number of bald eagles out at the lake, considering they were only introduced in the late 1980’s. There are also a surprising number of access points to the lake that of course are quite far from each other because there’s a big ol’ lake in the middle. Driving opportunity!
I focused on the southwest corner of the lake, hitting the two viewing stations at the dam/spillway, the Salt Creek Boat Ramp, and the Fairfax Boat Ramp. The lake was iced over and a fellow spotter pointed out a deer carcass that she said had been covered in eagles on Saturday. Alas, I saw only one and he (she?) was flying high overhead, enjoying the balmy 45 degree weather. Still, my sense of duty as an observer got me out of my car and into the outdoors where I could log my requisite 30 minutes of observation time.
While I still get a thrill every time I see an eagle, this time the most captivating part of my experience was listening to the ice. I’m not sure if it was the fast rise in temperature or the light breeze off the water or both but I could hear the lake ice cracking and tinkling as it shifted from one solid surface to a moonscape of jagged pieces. A few times the noise was so melodic I thought I was hearing stray wind chimes. Other times it sounded like a large rock had suddenly plummeted into the water. Mostly I was just glad not to be out on the ice, heart jumping with every CRAAACK!
Did I really need to drive those fifteen miles? No, probably not. Did I feel like I was being constructive? Yes, I did. Did I enjoy myself? Absolutely! It may be a long time before I completely give up my Sunday drives (or even better, replace them with Sunday bicycle rides) but for now I take the intermediate steps of 1.) driving with a purpose and 2.) making sure I get out of the car. Because there’s a whole big world out there, even in the frozen winter.
Nesting wren by Moschell on Flickr
Welcome 2014. I think New Year’s is a bit overrated, probably because I hate staying up past 10:00. Still, I truly enjoy the feeling of a fresh start. It’s a comforting feeling, especially after a rough year.
I’ve moved away from doing New Year’s resolutions and yet I always feel the urge to do something so I was delighted to stumble across two alternatives this year. The first was an article by Kelly McGonigal, a scientist who studies willpower and happiness. Her research indicates that it’s beneficial to both your happiness and your willpower to spend some time looking back. We should savor our memories of good times and also remind ourselves of the strengths we showed in past hard times.
One of her suggested exercises was to “list your favorite memories and triumphs of 2013, including the challenges you faced with courage or humor (even if things didn’t turn out the way you hoped).” I was glad she included that extra nudge because 2013 was a very tough year for me and I initially had trouble finding anything positive. My daughter was stillborn and it was devastating. My grandfather passed away shortly after, as if to remind me that things can always get worse. It would be easy to write off last year as one to be forgotten.
But there were good memories too, and even during the worst times I discovered strength I didn’t know I possessed. It felt empowering to write it all down and to focus on the positive. I also enjoyed writing a letter from my future self thanking my present self for working hard in 2014. My visions of the future are still a bit fuzzy but I can imagine looking back on 2014 with satisfaction.
Of course, I do love setting goals and feeling purposeful so I also spent some time with Mark Manson’s Life Purpose Guide. It’s a short series of writing exercises that he suggests doing once a year to remind yourself of where you’re heading and how to get there. While I can’t say it gave me that light-shining-down-from-heaven LIFE PURPOSE, I feel good about the direction I’m heading and the things I hope to achieve this year. I (still) want to have a baby. I want to move into a new home that will allow Will and I to minimize use of our car. I want to be trained as a life coach. I want to spend more time cooking (with the hope that I will get better with practice). I want to return to blogging about green living.
If I were to pick one word as my theme for 2014 it would be “nesting.” I’m gathering bits and pieces to make my home and my career cozy and supportive. I’m settling in and embracing who I am. I’m continuing to grow and to accept that I can only control my own actions. I’m living green and exploring life’s possibilities with Will.
And I’m writing again. It’s good to be back.