For me, the prelude to summer has been a blur. Everywhere I see photos on social media of people floating on lakes and camping in the forest, backdrops of blue and green.

I imagine that the floaters and forest dwellers feel renewed, somehow expanded. As a writer, I appreciate that the impact of the written word relies just as much on what’s not on the page as what isn’t.

Blank space matters.

In our outdoor lives we must also find expanses of blue and green, ones that allow our muscles to relax and our minds to wander. These backdrops provide the canvas for our adventures.

I’ve been in full on hustle mode, hours for kayaking and riding few and far between.

Too often I’m hunched over the steering wheel driving by the important places, the backdrops for outdoor time. I’ve envied others’ photos of social media, craving to be nurtured by nature’s blank spaces.

Last week during the afternoon monsoon I was at the landfill. I live halfway up a mountain without luxuries like garbage pickup so every week I sort out paper from glass from aluminum cans. The landfill attendant I’ve come to know over the years came up to chat, asking me about my day.

“I’m in it,” I said. “There’s a lot going on, I’m struggling to keep up.”

She nodded. “We all are.”

I stopped sorting long enough to look her in the eye, and just stand there surrounded by mounds of TV screens and stacks of discarded appliances. I thought about how we have different struggles and different challenges, but we’re all dealing with something.

She pointed to the ridge in the distance. “Well, look at that.”

As she spoke a rainbow seemingly dropped from a cloud down toward the highest peak.

We stood side-by-side, admiring beauty in an unexpected place.

I spent the rest of the week noticing more. There is a huge field at the bottom of the mountains with the most beautiful sunsets. For the first time I parked my truck on the side of the road to catch the last glimpse of sun and noticed that someone had carved a seat out of a stump just so someone could take in the streaked sky.

Another time I drove over a mountain pass and noticed a spring flowing off the side of the mountain. I pulled over and filled up my water bottle with fresh water.

I’m still working too much and playing too little, craving empty hours and days to drink up expanses of blue and green. Until I whittle down my to-do list though, I’m taking a few minutes to notice the simple things.

The blink of a firefly on a moonless night.

The cold spring water running through my fingers.

The way a rainbow punctuates a rainstorm and dances in the clouds.

Everyday improves when we make time to see what’s right in front of us, when we turn our gaze ever so slightly beyond the daily grind.