Rechkemmer: The redheaded woodpecker

Columnist Gracie Rechkemmer encourages you to step outside and find the peace in nature, especially throughout the tumultuous year of 2020. 

Gracie Rechkemmer

I woke up this morning to the sounds of warblers, woodpeckers and wind whistling through the trees. The sun was already beating down relentlessly, making it impossible to sleep in. Bacon sizzled over the fire pit, insects began darting through tall grasses and the crackling footsteps of deer invited me into the forest. As I ventured in, a solitary redheaded woodpecker sat perched over the path, basking in the morning light. It seemed at peace in its expansive home. 

I couldn’t imagine a better way to start the day. 

In a world rife with pain, uncertainty and stress, there is an art to stepping away. There is an art to knowing your limits and allowing yourself time to breathe, time to be vulnerable and time to recharge. Nobody can indefinitely face high levels of stress without facing burnout, especially in a year filled to the brim with taxing situations

The demands of life seem unrelenting and psychological data shows the concerning effects of this. Adults in 2020 report significantly higher average stress levels than in 2019 and experts believe the negative mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will be “serious and long-lasting.”

Learning how to take a break is more imperative than ever.

For me, spending time in nature provides an unparalleled escape from the burdens of life. Feeling the sun on my face and the wind in my hair allows me to place my anxieties on the back burner and feel at peace with the world. There is nothing quite like spending your days wandering aimlessly through the wilderness, quietly appreciating the complexity of the world around you. There is nothing quite like spending your nights surrounded by life, separated from the elements by only the thin walls of a tent. There is a certain undeniable beauty that accompanies spending long periods of time outdoors, assigning yourself no agenda and allowing yourself to be guided by the world around you.

Camping provides a safe haven in a world of chaos, a temporary shield against the ongoing pressures of life.

Whether or not you are a nature person, spending time outdoors can be a healing and regenerative experience. I encourage you to make time for yourself to step away from your responsibilities and experience uninterrupted time in nature — as much as you can spare. Allow yourself to think, allow yourself to wander and allow yourself to sit back and take in the sights and sounds. Iowa has numerous beautiful places that can provide not only a relaxing break, but also truly fun and educational experiences. Take a weekend off, take a hike and take a lesson from the creatures we see every day. 

Today I took a lesson from the redheaded woodpecker. I stood still on a small forest path, basked in the morning light and allowed myself to be at peace in my expansive home.