By Evan Rao | Image by Jubilee Hernandez

One of my favorite sounds in the world is the call of a mourning dove. It’s a haunting, melancholic series of coos, remarkably consistent in cadence and rhythm. The dove which makes the sound is relatively unassuming; a grey and plump bird with nervous eyes and orange feet.

Until recently, I had seen the dove, and heard its call, but paid little attention to it. I didn’t care much for small things, like the mourning dove, which has no interest in being visually spectacular and immediately stimulating. My world was filled with constant distractions, such as social media, video games, and Netflix. And while technology like this is by no means inherently bad, days spent transitioning from distraction to distraction leave little room for things like the mourning dove.

For many, spending time alone outdoors is essential. Especially during these past few months with such uncertainty about spending time close to others, being alone outside has kept me sane. I’d like to advocate for a gentle, accommodating way of being outdoors in this article, rather than the overly masculinized, traditional practice of American solitude. I think that anybody, even the least outdoorsy, most extroverted person can benefit from some solitary time spent in nature. The following are a few ways I have found value in spending time outside, alone.

Perhaps the single best way to clear your mind and enjoy being outdoors alone is meditation. For many, meditation seems like an overly spiritual, difficult practice, but that perception couldn’t be farther from the truth. Meditation can simply mean finding a bench in a park and closing your eyes. For those who have never tried meditating, apps like Headspace, which provide audio guidance, can be a great way to get started. Personally, I think the best spot to meditate on the Colorado College campus is sitting under one of the trees on Tava Quad.

Another practice that helps me feel comfortable spending time outside alone is listening to music. Music is transporting, and the peace and quiet of the outdoors provides a perfect venue to fully enjoy it. Furthermore, music can help stave off any feelings of discomfort one experiences when alone in a new space. Try listening to your favorite song while watching trees blow in the wind. I truly believe music is best experienced outside.

My new favorite thing to do while spending time alone outside, however, is paying close attention to my surroundings. I like to focus my attention on one leaf, or one bug, and follow their movements. I’ve found that the most mundane of things, like common moths, are incredibly interesting if you give them enough attention. And listening to bird calls can be wonderfully relaxing and fun. I like to close my eyes and try to pick out individual calls, thinking about what emotion each evokes.

As many of us transition back to life on the CC campus, the amount of time we will be able to spend in large groups remains uncertain. Now, for better or worse, is the time to embrace solitary practices. For many, including myself, that can be a scary prospect. Yet, through my experiences, I have found that the right mindset and a willingness to try new things can make spending time alone deeply rewarding. Meditation, listening to music, and paying close attention to nature aren’t the only avenues to enjoying solitude. However, if practiced enough, they can lead to new discoveries. And maybe, with enough time, you’ll find your own mourning dove.

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