“What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare”

This lovely card arrived from my sister-in-law, Robin, this week. . .

One of the things that makes this card so special for me is that she took the time to paint it herself and include a poem on the inside:

“What is this life if, full of  care,  We have no time to stand and stare

No time to stand beneath the boughs, And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see when woods we pass, Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see in broad daylight, Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance, And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait til her mouth can, Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.”

The poem was written by William Henry Davies, probably in the early part of the twentieth century.  I remember reading it in high school and liking it even then.

I used to take a lot of time to stand and stare – and not feel guilty about it. I spent hours and hours hiking in the woods and hills, and I do not remember thinking that my time would be better spent doing something else. Of course, other than doing my homework,  keeping my room somewhat clean, and doing occasional chores, I did not have a lot of responsibilities.

That is probably why standing and staring is a specialty of the very young and the very old.  It doesn’t really have to be that way though – could we prioritize and simplify our lives to include some time each day just for staring out the window or sitting  by a river or walking outdoors where we  can see the sky and the trees?

Various studies on people experiencing stress, such as hospital patients and university students, have shown that just  looking at nature scenes of  things such as greenery, flowers, and water helps significantly more in recovery from stress than looking at scenes lacking nature such as rooms, buildings, and towns.   This can happen in less than five minutes  and the results include positive changes in blood pressure, heart activity, muscle tension, and brain electrical activity.

Such a simple and enjoyable way to lower stress and improve the quality of our lives!  Just contrast the feelings you get from walking through a crowded shopping mall to the feelings you get from walking by a lake or in a park.  I love to shop, and it can give me energy while I am doing it, but usually when I go home, I feel exhausted.  When I walk a few miles in nature, I end up feeling so refreshed and usually acquire some amazing insight in the process.

Balance seems to be the key. If we consider a short time each day looking at the clouds, the blue sky, the trees, the water, or the stars as vital as eating, sleeping, working, and all the other things we consider essential, it can’t help but have an effect on our mood and our health. It may even help to put our lives in perspective and, as our muscles relax and our blood pressure goes down, we may even find those burdens we carry around becoming lighter and the answers to our questions and the solutions to our problems coming out of the silence.


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