Salve for the Soul

Onset, MA

There’s this feeling I get every few days, after putting in hours at the store or in front of my computer… when tension builds in my shoulders and stress has me snapping at everyone. It means I need to go out, to get away from people and stuff. I do a quick equation: how much stress relief do I need+how far can I go with the time available?

Interestingly, not all destinations score the same on the scale. Sometimes a walk or run in a nearby park/conservation area like Rocky Woods is enough. Other times I need to remove myself as far as possible from home in order to achieve the desired result. I know when the salve is working: I stop obsessing about minutiae and start noticing my peaceful surroundings.

It reminds me of a guy I used to work for, the publisher of a group of weekly newspapers. Once a year he’d fly out West and rent a car, he told me. With just a bag of assorted snacks and drinks at his side, he’d meander through places like Utah and Nevada for a week on his own.

At the time, I couldn’t understand his need to get away like that. I asked why he didn’t find enjoyment in visiting cities and historical sites and cultural events.

His response was simple and memorable: “Empty places fill me up,” he said.

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