A cool breeze and low humidity descended on Proctor’s campus today as we turned the calendar to August. Today is perhaps the most beautiful day of the summer to date. No wildfire smoke blowing down from Quebec. No oppressive humidity. No threat of torrential rain or flooding. The hints of fall in the air today are a far cry from the hottest, wettest summer that we have ever experienced. During this spectacular stretch of weather, we find ourselves spending every moment we can outdoors enjoying the glory of rural New Hampshire.
In 1891, then head of school Dr. Francis Morton (the old Morton House was his home he constructed on the outskirts of Proctor’s campus) built a trail network that extended into the largely deforested foothills of Ragged Mountain. Over the past 132 years, this original trail network has grown along with Proctor’s campus, now providing more than a dozen miles of integrated trails within Proctor’s 2,500 acres of woodlands.
We each utilize this land differently. By design and intentional multi-use management practices, the woodlands allow for hunters to harvest deer, bear, and other animals, for mountain bikers, runners, and hikers to exercise their bodies, and for our students to learn powerful lessons about their own intersection with the natural world through their classes. It is in each of these varied interactions that we find a constant: the ability to better focus and reflect on the chaos of our world when we are immersed in nature.
Rarely in life do we allow ourselves to exist in a moment of silence; a silence uninterrupted by traffic, our phone vibrating with a missed call or text message, or someone “needing” something from us. When we step into nature, we amplify our ability to listen, to truly hear that which is resonating in our own minds and hearts. When we make space for reflection, we find direction.
Like so many lessons we learn from the natural world, perhaps this is our lesson for a summer filled with heat waves, tornados, and flooding: slow down and listen. We must not only listen to that which the global climate is screaming at us, but we need to better listen to each other and to ourselves. How can we carve out this quiet, intentional time with those we love so that we can hear, really hear, their story? How can we become better disciplined to embrace the slowness life can afford us when we allow it? How can we find ways to immerse ourselves in silence, a silence so many of us avoid because it terrifies us, and listen for direction and purpose?
As the start of the school year slowly approaches, may we find time to ask ourselves these questions and to let a little more silence into our lives.
- Environmental Stewardship