Tonic of wildness | Mill Creek Musings

Henry David Thoreau wrote, “We need the tonic of wildness.” One of Webster’s definitions of the word tonic is “Mentally or morally invigorating; stimulating.” I agree with the importance of being in tune with nature. But I submit that what we really need is the tonic of contrast.

If we live in the woods we can take a ride in the countryside and experience green rolling hills, pastures and fields of corn. If we’re city folk, we can spend an afternoon walking in the park or get away to a lake for swimming or boating.

My life on Harrington Road is quiet. I recently returned to the busyness of Long Island where I lived for 35 years. Homes seemed larger and closer together. Weekend traffic was fierce. There were many restaurants and places of entertainment to choose between.

Then I spent a week with family on Fire Island. Cars were left on the mainland and a passenger ferry delivered me to the beach house for a family reunion. It was wonderful to see my children and grandchildren from as far away as Australia, England and Texas.

The sound of the waves relentlessly beating against the shore was music to my ears. Lathering on suntan lotion, wading in the salt water and combing the beach for shells occupied my days. Playing Uno and Kings in the Corner with my grandkids, eating seafood and barbequed hamburgers filled the evenings.

I saw no newspapers, watched very little television, and was “unplugged” from the internet for a week. A train ride brought me back to the North Country. It is good to be home. My experiences away were both stimulating and invigorating. The tonic of contrast has given me a new lease on life.

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