Reconnecting with nature helped Todd Hannula breathe new life into his daily routine.
I used to sit, staring at once both blankly and intently, at my computer. A hum of noise, pictures, words, and a voice were pushing my senses to their limits. I was listening, I was engaging. I really was.
Sometimes I would get up and walk around in circles, looking out the window at the lady pushing a pram or some roofers who risked death but still shouted at each other, passing slates — plenty of scaffolding below, but no safety harness in sight.
We had tons of breakthroughs. We were productive. But, something was wrong.
It was just a feeling.
Every morning at 8.45am, Ned Hoste and I have a call to discuss the previous days happenings, the current day’s tasks, and the week’s aspirations. These are rambling, almost seat of your pants calls providing a sense of direction while still allowing our curiosity to take foot at any moment.
About a month ago, I told Ned I was being followed. It was just a feeling, this following. It was a dark feeling — sinister in its omnipresence, rather than its appearance. I couldn’t put my finger on it, yet it was always there.
Something had to be done. I was worried this thing, following me, might actually catch me.
We talked about conditions and disorders as if we had just finished our entrance exams to the medical board. It gave me ideas, but everything seemed so clinical.
Then, it occurred to me. While we were talking, Ned was walking his dog — Pip. Every morning, without exception, Ned was walking his big yellow retriever through wind, cold, sun, and lots and lots of rain. It’s really green in the North of England.
I don’t have a dog. Do I need one? What about the rain?
I never used to ask these questions when I used to go for weekday morning runs. It never really mattered to me when I headed out for my early morning Sunday trots over the hills, across the trails — returning long after lunch. I cherished the elements. After living in the far corners of America, I was glad to experience nature without extremes.
Like the people themselves, England is not too much of anything. Even the rain, although plentiful, is light.
To be sure, they could be wild — these runs — but, rarely too hot or too cold or too icy. It was just me, running too far.
I had stopped running for the most part; it had become extreme. And now I was being chased.
I decided to change the way I engaged in our morning call. I decided to walk and talk. Just a brisk walk. No dog, no running, no plan.
Of course, the first morning I ventured out, the weather Gods took me to task. I endured some freak, nearly horizontal rain carried by gusting cold winter winds. When I returned home, nearly an hour later, I was soaked through.
I loved it.
The call was more intense. I was more alive. I was present.
Our morning calls are different now. I’m different. I stumble out of my house every morning, with my iPhone in my back pocket and my white ear buds snaking up inside my jacket. I never know what direction I’m headed — each day is a different route determined by the wind or sun.
After a month of these mornings, I’ve been reintroduced to a peculiar phenomenon. Almost without fail, in the spring, summer, and autumn, no matter what the weather forecast suggests — it’s nearly always pleasant in the early morning. It’s weird. The days are always a mixed bag, but the mornings are almost universally awesome.
I love the morning, always have. I feel like I’ve reconnected with an old friend.
It gets better every day.
Nature has a way of dancing with your senses, not overloading them. I notice the deep greens of the Stray, the magnificent purples and pinks of the living watercolour that is the morning sky, and I hear the birds.
I’m noticing people and places.
Walking on a daily basis, combining nature and townscape, I’m getting to look behind a curtain. I’m seeing things you never see when driving…like this little surprise down a ginnel —
I’m lucky to live in a town that places such an importance on nature. I can watch the seasons change just by walking out my door. I’m looking forward to these beauties…
I notice people in ways you often don’t when you’re walking with a purpose. Task driven walking has a way of putting the blinders on.
I love making up stories about the people I pass — imagining dozens of different lives. Some sad, some happy, some boring, some exciting — all real, to me.
My morning walks, with Ned on the other end of the phone, feel like a luxury. I feel as if I’m somehow cheating. But, I’m working. Yep, working.
Wow! What a treat. I’m enjoying nature, getting my blood flowing, awakening my mind, and getting stuff done.
And the air, oh, the beautiful morning air. My face feels fresh. The color has returned to my cheeks.
I’m no longer the one being followed. I’m following. I’m being led by my curiosity.
My morning walks create a fantastic vibe. I’m coming back to the lab with so much energy and optimism. Creating, building stuff is hard work to be sure. But, it’s made less so by the way I now start my days.
My morning walks are awesome. They make me happy.
Previously published on Medium.com