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Nature helps shed worries

June 9

My daddy used to tell me not to chew on something that’s eating you.
– Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

As a college president, I often worry. I worry about the welfare of the college. I worry about our employees and our students. I sometimes think that I am paid to worry – and that when I worry I am motivated to be proactive to solve problems.

One of the great things about a sabbatical is that it’s a chance to disconnect. And when I disconnect, I stop worrying. I must say it was fairly easy to disconnect from worry about Augustana because the college is in such good hands with Kent Barnds, our acting president, together with the rest of the team comprising our faculty, administration and staff. And when you’re in Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland, Canada, fording a cold mountain stream, you’re not ruminating about Augustana College!

Another great thing about a sabbatical is that it gives Jane and me time to engage with books for pleasure, enjoying audio books as I drive. Both the books we’ve heard so far were about travel and learning about one’s self from being in a different place. The first was Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News. We selected the book because it’s set in Newfoundland, where we started our Canadian adventure. Proulx wrote, “A spinning coin, still balanced on its rim, may fall in either direction.”

The second book, Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses, is a story of one of the last true cowboys in the American West, who commented that his father told him “not to chew on something that’s eating you.”

Both books provide insight on worry. Many problems are like spinning coins – they spin, sometimes out of control, but usually resolve themselves. Worrying about most problems does not influence the result. This sabbatical has reinforced that it’s not worth chewing on something too much. Rather, it’s sometimes best to stop worrying and trust others to solve some of the problems of the world – and the college.

See also Jane Bahls’ Arctic Adventures

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