Going Green


If you were to ask me, “What’s a deciduous tree?” I would answer, “Umm, isn’t it a tree that loses its’ leaves for part of the year?” The “umm” being that unfortunate female pause, the question mark being my own shadow of doubt when it comes to any definitive answer about trees.   Botany and I are not tight.   I know a pine from a maple from an aspen and know that I love cherry blossom trees, but that’s about the depth of my knowledge.  I do know that the tree dying a slow death in our backyard is a Japanese Maple.  That’s because my husband has been in mourning over her for years and he can’t manage the emotional strength to pull her root.  She is deciduously dead, but he keeps her around to hang his bird feeders.

Thank goodness you don’t have to be able to identify tree varieties to enjoy a walk in the park.   I read this week in the NY Times about a study out of Scotland that submits that brain fatigue can be eased by a stroll in green space.   Well duh.  The new part of the study however is that it tracked brain wave patterns of people while walking in a number of environments.   The data showed that the brain was aroused, attentive, and frustrated when in busy urban environments.  Though this wasn’t tracked, I’m sure the data would have skyrocketed had their subject been forced to walk in cities with a kinetic 6 year old who lacks general body control.  It then showed that the brain was still engaged, but quieter, while in green spaces.  We’ll assume for the purposes of this study that it was conducted in a park with responsible dog owners, meaning that it was not done here in Luxembourg.

This past week has been my first full week in Luxembourg with the kids not in school.   And with visitors.  And with Brett working.  My visitors (Brett’s parents) are easy, but kids not in school – not so easy.  By the end of the week, I had run through the short list of things I know to do in this town.  That list is even shorter when it’s 20 degrees and still snowing and everyone the kids know has gotten out of dodge for Spring Break.  We went to YoYo (see older post) three times, for example.   My living room was starting to feel like a bustling, urban concrete jungle, although I wouldn’t have expressed it in quite that way.   Hidden in my frustration with not quite knowing what to do next was actually a low level of boredom.   How embarrassing to admit that.  We’ve traveled and done so much since we’ve been here that I was having a hard time adjusting to the slowdown in diet.  The fatigue of constant stimulation.

We decided to spend Thursday in the car exploring the Ardennes region of Luxembourg on our way to visit a well-known castle in Vianden.  It wasn’t a day trip I was necessarily chomping at the bit to do.  I would have been similarly ambivalent about going to Paris or seeing George Clooney in person (I'm imagining I kept all this negative juju to myself), but I willingly went along for the ride.   Brett was taking the day off work after all.  It was a cold, but sunny day, and the drive was gorgeous.   It was along green rolling hills, sloping valleys, small rivers, wooded areas – an extremely varied area that begged for you to be on your bike (if it were not freezing cold.)  By the time we reached the castle, I felt my attitude improving.   I put my gloves on without complaint, and grabbed for the camera with a sense of awe, not duty.  The castle was wonderful, but it was the drive that was invigorating.   Yes, I thought, the greenery had just restored a tiny piece of my soul.  At least the piece that was feeling blah and restless.

My mother-in-law said that when she is surrounded by the natural world, she is reminded that it exists without needing any of our involvement.   It doesn’t have to be fixed.  And so much else in our world does need fixing.   For those who believe in God, creation is also God’s audacious way of reminding us how much he loves us.  That He would create all this beauty for us to enjoy, whether we know it’s specific tree name or not.   And an engaged but quieter mind allows us to stand back and make connections that are harder to make when everything else if rapid firing.   Whoever had a moment of inspiration while walking through Nordstrom, or tending to a relentless scheduled day, or playing the 9th game of Sequence, or even touring another beautiful European city? 

Tomorrow we are driving to a chalet we rented in Switzerland for the week.  So the travel continues, but this time we get some more practice with quiet green spaces – albeit dotted with snow at higher elevations.   And we’ll have a wood stove to come back too to warm up and share our stories.  (The week after next I’ll have to revisit that fatigue of constant stimulation – more work to do there.)

So go out and idle.  Tomorrow is Easter after all.  Give yourself permission to take a walk in the park (or the Alps).  Just please pick up after your dog.