‘Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of lunch.’
And a warm welcome from the top of Crystal Palace park, where a surprised crow flies off into the sunrise with a wet wipe in her beak.
For those of you new around these parts, welcome 👋 My name is David and I’m a writer, outdoor instructor and cyclist-at-large with Thighs of Steel. In this newsletter, I write stories that help you and me understand the world (and ourselves) a little better.
Sometimes I watch sunrise with the crows.
Welcome to edition 383.
Actually, the year 383 was a memorable one for the Roman province of Britannia. It was that year and from these lands that General Magnus Maximus launched his kinda successful bid to become Roman Emperor. (Only kinda successful because he was executed five years later…)
An early harbinger of the implosion of the Roman Empire, Magnus’s departure from Britain signalled the beginning of the Roman withdrawal and the de facto transfer of power to local rulers.
Days Of Adventure 2023: 94
🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢⭕⭕⭕⭕⭕⭕ What is this?
We’re in the last month of 2023 — no, really, here we are. At times it’s all been a bit much, hasn’t it, this 2023 what we’ve done here?
But the times when it hasn’t felt all a bit much are represented by those 94 little green circle emojis; these are the days when I have put myself outside in nature for a neat slab of what I call adventure.
I’ve been counting my Days of Adventure every year since 2021 and this year I’ve been a little stricter on what counts, with a greater emphasis on time spent in nature, rather than simply adventuring.
I’m lucky that my whole summer was spent travelling, from Glasgow to Athens and back, but simply being elsewhere doesn’t necessarily give me what I’m looking for in an adventure.
What I’m looking for is restoration: a place of balance, connection and purpose.
At last week’s Adventure Mind conference, academic Susan Houge Mackenzie drew our attention to two species of ‘happiness’: hedonic and eudaimonic.
Hedonic wellbeing is characterised by the dopamine buzz of achievement. It’s all about what you’ve done: you climbed that mountain, cycled those miles, swam that ocean. And, once you’ve done that, it’s all about what’s next — higher, further, tougher.
The adventure industry, led by elite adventurers and their awe-inspiring stories and images, is OBSESSED with hedonic wellbeing. But, actually, chasing the dopamine dragon gets quite boring after a while. Boring or flat-out unsustainable physically, emotionally and existentially.
Eudaimonic wellbeing, on the other hand, is all about the human search for The Good Life. Eudaimonic adventure is not about what you’ve done; it’s about why you (really) did it. Who are you? What are your values? What does adventure mean to you?
Eudaimonic adventure is where we find restoration and the good news is that it works, and will continue to work, in small doses. Eudaimonic adventure can be found in the little wood round the corner from your house; a place where you could sit on a log for ten minutes during your lunch break.
That little wood (or riverbank, heathland or field hedgerow) isn’t striving with you for higher, further or tougher. The wood is not doing; the wood is being.
When we step away from the straight-edges of modernity and enter the magic circle of organic growth, our doing becomes being too and, here, under the leafy canopy with the beetles and the fungi, we can restore our sense of ourselves, our values and our intentions, in symbiotic relation to everything else.
As naturalist John Muir wrote, ‘Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.’
That might sound ambitious, but I don’t think he’d mind a wee edit: ‘Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of lunch.’
See you out there; bring sandwiches.
Adventures in the millionaire’s jungle ravine! (12 February 2021)
The Men Who Stare At Trees (31 January 2020)
34 trees, 2 magpies, and me (18 January 2019)
Five Tiny Big Things
A juice company dumps 12,000 metric tonnes of orange pulp and accidentally heals degraded forest in Costa Rica? (I had to check the date on this article — it’s legit.)
I know the world is in need of deep systemic change in so many ways, but small wins can help. Join the revolution and sign the petition that I personally have been waiting for since about 2007 — ‘Reduce the number of news bulletins on BBC 6 Music’. Thank you.
Exposure to natural light in the mornings is meant to be really great for, like, health and stuff. But, as someone who still hasn’t adjusted to the clocks going back, maybe I’m one of the 10 percent of people who get more out of exposure to natural light at dusk? I never knew that might be a thing until I heard this podcast with Achim Kramer, the head of chronobiology at Charité–Universitätsmedizin Berlin, and Russell Foster, a professor of sleep and circadian neuroscience at the University of Oxford. Related tip: don’t use your alarm clock to force yourself awake, but as a signal that you have had enough sleep. (Thanks C 👋)
I’m excited about this Nature Therapy Conference in April 2024. I would be much more excited if I could actually go… But you should!
EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE FINE (a 15 minute film). An archaeologist, a therapist and some preppers discuss the end of the world (includes a quiz about seeds). Related: How anxiety about the planet’s future is transforming the practice of psychotherapy (NY Times).
If you enjoyed this week’s missive, please remember that I have NO WAY OF KNOWING 😱 unless you heart, comment, reply or share.
Thanks for your eyeballs, thanks for your support.