The other day on the news, there was a story about how nature rejuvenates us. Grant money was spent on studying the impact of nature on our health. Was that really necessary? What didn’t we know about this already? According to the news story, the sounds of water and birds soothe us thereby lowering stress and anxiety levels. Lower stress and anxiety levels help to bring down our blood pressure. Is this new information? I feel like this should be intuitive. Anyone else feel that way?
Every year I look forward to the sounds of nature as the season transitions from winter to spring. As the days grow warmer, I love to have coffee on the deck in the early hours of a weekend morning. Songbirds sing in chorus, squirrels chatter, the dogs happily sniff the new green blades of grass poking through the earth as it wakes from the winter slumber. The only thing making that scenario more perfect would be the sounds and smells of an ocean beyond the deck. Ah, the stuff of dreams.
In days gone by, we spent more time outdoors, more time with our hands in the dirt, more time with the wind in our hair, and the sun on our faces. We were more centered as human beings, more patient with life, more willing to sit for an afternoon with a fishing line in the water hoping for a nibble. Today, we are more mobile, but we travel to visit artificial theme parks instead of hanging out in the backyard, or taking the family camping. The year of COVID prevented many from traveling to theme parks or from visiting cities in the middle of concrete jungles. Last year at this time, COVID necessitated stay-at-home mandates across the nation. People and families were forced to cancel travel plans and instead plan stay-cations. Many struggled a bit trying to figure out how to entertain the children apart from Disney characters and theme park rides. The world suffered or thinks it did anyway. Eventually, families began to emerge from the safety of their homes and return to the outdoors. We discovered it wasn’t so bad, after all.
In our little corner of the world, the neighborhood playgrounds closed due to infection concerns. Children could not congregate at the merry-go-round and swings. But, children are resilient, creative beings, and given time, will find ways to entertain themselves. Many afternoons as I walked through the neighborhood park, I stopped to look at the chalk artwork that decorated the sidewalk paths. Most of the messages and pictures left by children were colorful, positive messages that lifted the spirit. Messages of hope, renewal, of rainbows after the COVID storm. Children were out riding bicycles, skateboards, hoverboards, walking their dogs, and fishing in the park pond with their families. Sounds of laughter and the chatter of children broke otherwise silent walks through the park. Kids are like that – left to themselves they are naturally positive, can see the light within the darkness, their spirits still untainted by a lifetime of negativity. Families were reconnecting again. Throughout the late spring and summer, I saw families gathered beneath the trees in the park, sitting in a circle, talking and laughing while still maintaining the recommended social distancing to prevent the ugly virus from spreading. Some even masked while gathering outside with others. It was heartening to see and hear.
As confining as COVID was for most, we did adapt, we left the electronic babysitters inside and ventured out into nature. The sun warmed our skin, the grass felt good beneath our feet, digging in the dirt connected us, and catching a fish was a new kind of fun.
Job 12:7-9 says, “But ask the animals – they will teach you – and the birds in the air – they will tell you; or speak to the earth – it will teach you – and the fish in the sea will inform you” (The Complete Jewish Bible) We were meant to enjoy nature…..