I’m reading Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods.
He talks about two kinds of attention: directed attention, and fascination. Directed attention is what we use up in our lives, focusing on work, solving problems, speaking and being spoken to. Fascination is a break from that. We are alert, but we are resting. This is what we find among the trees or walking through the desert. We are aware of our surroundings, but we emerge from it clear-headed instead of spent.
This makes complete, whole-body sense to me. In those bad moments, I am out of attention. I can’t focus because there’s too much happening, and because whatever part of me is in charge of maintaining focus is too pooped to go on.
I knew this instinctively, without having the words for it, before. I’d say I needed rest, and I didn’t (mostly) mean I want to be on the couch with my eyes closed, or staring at a flickering screen. I meant I need to do something restorative, something that replenishes what’s been used up. What would that be?
Louv's project is to show how important contact with nature is—for everyone, but especially for kids. So he writes a lot about how time in nature restores us. I can’t disagree. I’ve spent some joyful time in close contact with nature and come out as restored as I can imagine being. And my most frequent fantasy escape would certainly count as a natural place.
I will get us all outside more, and use some of my rest time, when I can, to be where things grow. And it helps, always, to have new words for a problem and a new kind of solution to look for.
But what, again, about 10:30 on a Tuesday morning? How can I sneak that kind of restoration into my life, into a house where the sound is already taking up all the space?
Where do you find it? What fills you up again?