Since my kids started school again in a tenuous, uncertain year, I find myself getting sucked into the vortex again.

You know the one: the busy vortex, the “more more more” and “do do do” and “must have” vortex that cultural norms in our Westernized developed capitalist country beckon us to follow. Er, maybe I should be easier on us humans. Perhaps it’s more related to our evolution and our nature that we cannot stop eating all the sugar when we stumble across something sweet. But nevertheless, now – in my privileged position of having my basic needs and more met – I still cannot suppress that part of my desire to have all the things.

My brain runs dizzy with possibility:

“Put my kids in full time childcare so I can work more.”

“We missed out on so much last spring, what should we sign up for?”

“What other project can I tackle before winter hits?”

“Oooo look at that thing that will make my life ‘easier’ or ‘better’ or ‘cooler.’ Yes please!”

The problem as far as I can tell lies in the modern-day rewards I get for this behavior: the promotion, the accolades, the social media likes, the compliments from family and friends, the feeling that I “did something” or, more likely, that I look like I did something or am someone important.

But since the spring when my family was forced to slow down – to really cut it all out – the alarm bells are sounding in the still very much a-work-in-progress mindful, more objective part of my consciousness that screams ego alert as I find myself returning to my old ways of over-doing and over-consuming that, deep down, I know I would benefit from going without.

The alarm bells rang particularly loud for me the past couple weeks since jumping back on the hamster wheel a bit more, while also taking some time out to take my 6-year-old daughter backpacking for the first time.

Backpacking is probably my favorite thing to do in the whole wide world and is one of the most restorative things I personally find is best for my mind, body, and soul (also: privilege alert). This no doubt stems from all of the scientifically proven benefits of being out in nature – the smells, the sights, the sounds. This is the sensory rich experience we are so sorely missing in our indoor-comfort oriented lifestyles. And it’s really harming us.

But in addition to those benefits from the rich, healing tapestry of the wilderness, I’ve started to realize more and more that what I lack might be just as valuable as what I am adding to my day.

As technology evolves, we find ourselves more and more connected to each other and the global human community than ever before. There are so many benefits to this connection. The pathways of the internet mirror the pathways of mycelium as well as the pathways of our own neural networks. In my mind, this is the closest we’ve ever been to tapping into collective consciousness and the rich diversity that the global collective of diverse cultures has to offer.

At the same time, the statistics are clear: our love of stuff and technology and the time we spend consuming it, organizing it, cleaning it, and then purging it only to do it all over again has taken over our lives. For example, did you know that in the US there are over 50,000 storage facilities (for stuff that’s not even needed or being used in our daily life) and approximately 7.3 square feet of storage space for every person?! Becoming minimalist has compiled a jaw-dropping list of the statistics of our addiction to consume all the things.

On the contrary, when I’m backpacking, I have to consciously think about the following:

  • What/when to eat (with limited choices)
  • When/where to sleep (with limited choices)
  • What to wear (with limited, if any, choices)
  • Navigation (minimal with proper planning)

With the average American house being three times as large as it was 50 years ago, it’s no wonder I feel so at ease in the wilderness without having to shuffle around misplacing this and cleaning that. When I’m out in the wilderness, I walk. I listen. I eat. I sleep. I take breaths of fresh air. I often do it with dear friends who I get to know best in those circumstances. I enjoy the gifts of shared resources: clean air, water, the land, silence and the sounds of nature.

Recently, Evergreen’s own Buchanan Community Garden – which is free and open for the public to enjoy following garden rules – had three new benches installed for a sitting area thanks to the work of Eagle Scout Dane Ferguson, 15, and the support of Evergreen Christian Outreach (EChO), a project three years in the making.

Although not a wilderness area, the community gardens provide similar respite from our world of all the things and invite us to sit, to listen, to enjoy our fresh harvest, to take breaths of fresh air, and to be in the present moment in a communal space that reminds us that our shared “commons” goods and spaces like clean air, water, the land, and food grown organically and eaten fresh might be all we really need.

As writer May Sarton puts it, “Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.”

We invite you to tap into that slowness by enjoying the new benches at the Buchanan Community Garden, or strolling through Buffalo Park Community Garden, or finding a quiet place of peace outdoors to remember what’s important and to keep that busy/more vortex at bay for a few moments longer. Even if you can’t strap on a backpack and get into the wilderness, a bench in the garden will do just fine.