Something momentous happened in Davis on Saturday.
The news was all over Twitter. People were stopping in the street and pointing. Somewhere in Norway, the Nobel Peace Prize committee began searching for the responsible party.
That’s right: Two days ago, there was a really, really big rainbow.
Facebook chatter about the extravagant arch catapulted me off the sofa, across the parking lot and midway up a tree for a better view. (Renowned columnist and occasional ribbon dancer Will Long wasn’t kidding about giant retirement homes blocking out the sun in Davis).
Although the leprechauns had almost finished dismantling the legendary rainbow and were busily packing it up to display elsewhere, possibly Norway, I saw its last few inches of rich color disappearing into the trees. It was lovely to behold.
This “ooh, shiny!” reaction isn’t just a procrastination device. There’s something deeply captivating about natural beauty, if we’d only get off our butts and experience it. According to a slew of very scientific-sounding studies containing words like “preferenda” and “monomethod,” getting outside and looking at nature is good for you. One particularly rigorous study from UC Irvine revealed the shocking finding that certain people – people who go backpacking, to be specific – tend to get enjoyment out of backpacking. Way to go, Anteaters.
Another study from the University of Essex showed that a walk through a rural area reduces stress, elevates self-esteem and does your household chores for you while you’re out mucking about the English countryside.
The Arboretum, right here on campus, is a suitable substitute for getting your nature jollies, whether you’re napping, jogging or participating in the time-honored activity of duck capture. Davis also features a mysterious entity known as “The Greenbelt,” a maze of pathways, playgrounds, neatly-manicured grass and other suburban outdoorsy things. And if you’re one of those backpacking people who likes backpacking, researchers suggest that you go backpacking – perhaps at Lake Berryessa or just over the hills at Tahoe. After extensive study, experts now agree that this is less stressful than going shopping or performing brain surgery.
Of course, you don’t have to slog through pages of dry methodology to figure out that appreciating nature is a restorative activity. Conventional wisdom tells us to “stop and smell the roses” – a command I take very seriously. Every time I walk by the library, I bury my nose in the nearest face-level bloom and breathe deeply.
Suddenly, I’m enveloped in an abstract world of sensation and romance, enraptured by creation, overcome by the Bohemian ideals of truth, beauty, freedom and most of all – love! Then I catch a whiff of the garlic plants scattered every few feet, and I’m transported to my doorstep, getting picked up by a date who couldn’t resist the Italian leftovers in his fridge before coming over. If you walk past Shields one day and see muddy holes where the garlic plants used to be, I definitely don’t know anything about that.
So when the pressures of life are getting to you, when work sucks, when your world is crashing down because you didn’t get into your chem discussion and everything is ruined forever, just – stop. Breathe in the cool air after the rain. Look at the brand new, baby leaf unfurling on a twig. Catch a duck. No, don’t do that, it usually makes a mess. But get outside and take in a world whose beauty will endure and evolve long after today’s stresses have passed away.
BETH SEKISHIRO is willing to pay half her columnist salary for a research assistant. To apply for this lucrative (and by lucrative, she means unpaid) position, e-mail her at email@example.com.