A few years ago, I had a stretched muscle in my back that made sitting at a desk very painful. Since I was well into laptops at that point, the obvious solution was to do as much of my work as possible sitting in a comfortable chair that didn’t aggravate the pain in my back. Eventually with the help of therapy, my back got better. But by then, I was so comfortable working in the living room that it became my permanent office. I still have a desk in our home office and it serves a very important purpose–it provides a place to put everything that I need to deal with sometime but not right now. Normally, I try to clean it up sometime before the pile falls over and crushes the robot vacuum cleaner.
So, what does that have to do with the title of this post? There is actually a connection. Sitting at a desk, I tend to focus on the desk and other office junk–the printer, the books, the calendar telling me what I have to do and on and on. It is a work environment and while it might be effective to have all the work stuff in one place, it isn’t an overly inspiring or creative environment for me. Working in the living room, well that is a very different thing. I have the laptop I am working on. If I need something else, like a hymn book to plan worship, I have to go get it. Since the coffee table beside the work chair also holds a candle, some plants, my coffee cup or cereal bowl and occasionally my feet, there isn’t a lot of room for much else.
I get to focus on what I am working on–and when the inspiration isn’t flowing or my spelling is so bad that even Spell-check can’t figure it out, I can look out the window. Looking around in the office shows me stuff that needs to be done. Looking out the living room window allows me to see trees. Right now, the maples and the oak are in full leaf, the pine is showing its different coloured growing tips and the unknown berry bush is in bloom. If I look a bit more to the right, I can see the tidal flat and the hills and trees beyond that. If I look carefully, I don’t need to look at the lawn that needs mowing.
This is important to me because trees are an important part of my relaxation process. Being able to see trees somehow relaxes me and helps me think. When the sermon isn’t coming together or the blog post doesn’t make sense or the phone call goes on and on, being able to look at trees provides a break and a whiff of peace and relaxation. And, if one of the local squirrels happens to be performing in the tree when I look up, that is even better. Staring at trees does much more for my mental and spiritual health that staring at a desk (cluttered or clean) ever did. Looking at a wall of green leaves and needles is a much more powerful mini-break than looking at a wall with a calendar, a bulletin board and some pictures. Even looking at shelves full of books, as helpful as that is for me, doesn’t have the same effect as resting my eyes on trees.
I am not recommending this for everyone. But I would suggest that all of us have something that has this same sort of relaxing effect. My wife likes to see water–rivers, lakes, oceans. Some like to see children at play. A friend likes to see his car–or any car for that matter. There may even be some people who get that jolt of relaxation from looking at a cluttered desk and functional office space.
I think it is important that we learn about ourselves and what makes us tick and what makes us relax and build our daily rhythms around these insights. I have always known that trees relax me but it took a serious back pain before I learned that I could incorporate that insight into my actual work. I don’t know how much more effective and efficient my work is because of being able to see trees when I write but that doesn’t really matter–and if I ever need to quantify the effect, staring at the trees will help me figure out how calculate the effect.
Anyway, the squirrel is back and the tide is coming in.
May the peace of God be with you.