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— A few evenings ago I rediscovered one of the keys to a happy marriage. I am glad to report that it is right here in the Gentry community and it's free!

It is possible that this story will reveal TMI (too much information), but if sharing a glimpse into my marriage will be of value to someone else, then I will consider it a revelation for the common good. (Translate: Column deadline looming - subject needed.)

In any case, I want to acknowledge the benefits of the above mentioned rediscovery, most of all because it holds the power to restore harmony in the home.

For the record I will say that, by and large, my home is already harmonic (don't misinterpret that to mean we're musical, because we aren't). But, once in a blue moon, the winds shift and Earl and I get on each other's nerves. Nothing big usually, but still a hint that it is better if we spend a little time apart before we do something we shouldn't, like argue in front of the dog.

Anyway, when this need for restored harmony in my home occurred recently for some now-forgotten reason, I knew our relationship needed a little "time-out." I could tell Earl was thinking the same when he took off to the pasture on the four-wheeler. Not to be outdone, I decided to leave the house and head down a path I hadn't been on in a while - the Eagle Watch Trail.

Turns out, this was a great decision. Once I hit the halfmile long trail, the stress I brought with me began to slowly melt away. I paused to study the pretty lavender flowers blooming along the path and regretted that I hadn't brought along my camera. I considered going back to the house to get it, but quickly nixed that idea.

It was the perfect evening to spend time outdoors. The air was cool and still and the walk to the pavilion was one of peaceful solitude. Being in no hurry, I stopped whenever I wanted and observed what nature was doing around me.

The lake area was busy with a large flock of white birds that couldn't seem to decide which trees to settle in. I listened and watched from the pavilion's built-in bench, again yearning for my camera and a long telephoto lens.

After this calming reprieve, I felt ready to head back to the parking area. When I returned to my car, I was not the same annoyed woman that had climbed out of it an hourearlier. The difference in my mental outlook reminded me of one of the values of spending time in nature that I hadn't thought of in a while. This prompted me to do some reading to gain a better understanding of why the natural world makes such a good get-away.

There's no doubt that time outdoors is good for us. Many studies agree that spending time in nature positively impacts mental health and psychological development. This is caused at least in part because chemicals called endorphins are released into the bloodstream whenever we view natural scenes. These endorphins cause the body and mind to relax, reducing feelings of stress and increasing tolerance to pain. Some suggest that other side effects of a dose of nature include increased feelings of optimism, confidence, compatibility with our own environments and lots more.

Of course we can get the same benefits from hanging out in other places, but why not utilize a free resource we have right here in our own neck of the woods - the Eagle Watch Trail? There's no reason, however, to wait until there's discord in the home to pay a visit. The short relaxing hike provides just the medicine needed anytime.

I plan to head back again soon, and I will for sure take my camera with me next time. More than likely, Earl will go along too. However, if you happen to see me on the trail without him, it's probably better if you just don't ask.

Opinion, Pages 5 on 09/23/2009

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