Sunday, April 22, 2012

Nature Nurtures Me

I grew up right next to a woods. My mother said this was a good thing––girls need a place to go and cry. She was wrong. Oh sure, she often saw me running toward the trees with a thunder cloud across my face. No matter how miserable I was, I never cried in the woods. As soon as I was among the trees, I felt what the adult me now knows was peace.

Sadly there aren’t as many wild places anymore. Children no longer have much unstructured time or unstructured places in which to spend it. As a result, they have what Richard Louv describes as a “Nature Deficit Disorder.” He believes that lack causes all kinds of health and learning problems. According to Dr. William Bird, the chair of Britain’s Outdoor Health Forum, a person’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces.  

The same is true when I see blue oceans, brown deserts or even a vast grey sky. When I'm in nature, I don’t dwell on my own problems. I gain perspective. The woods, the sky, the ocean, the desert are all much larger than I am. The abundance of life outside myself doesn't diminish me. It expands me. When I am in nature, I feel part of the world. 

Now that I’m an adult, I live in a city of 8 million people. When things go wrong, when I feel bullied or disappointed or discouraged, I walk to our nearby park. I find a spot where the grass isn’t mowed and the bushes aren’t trimmed. A hawk flies by. The wind rustles the branches. Two squirrels play chase up a tree. Life continues there, in a crazy profusion, so I feel like I can too.

You’ve probably heard a lot about saving the environment. Let’s not forget that when we save the environment, we are actually saving ourselves.