This column was initially published on July 3, 2019.
Earth, our colossal home of dirt and rocks, changes. Fire burns the forest and new growth appears. Seeds are planted and harvested. We dig up our backyards for pools and gardens. Soil and sand erode and are replaced or lost to bodies of water to be recycled in a million epochs. Industry changes the landscape.
Humans irresponsibly consume in excess and pollute. We point a finger at the destroyers of the Amazon rainforest, but conveniently forget about one of the most horrendous environmental tragedies in American history; the toxic dumpsite called Love Canal in New York. The Chernobyl accident in 1986 was a catastrophic nuclear disaster. Contamination changes our planet.
Weather is a daily global occurrence of change. Sun, rain, wind, snow, sleet. Seasons change as the earth rotates. Major volcano eruptions, mountain landslides and historical hurricanes happen. We expect changes in weather and in nature. Do we expect changes in how humans take care of the earth and the universe?
Many of us fear or ignore change. Embroiled in a history of ecological transformation, how did we become so annoyed with change in our daily lives? How did we become so separated from our organic and environmental roots? You can’t stop progress or can you?
For the masses, workaholism blots out time with nature and I’ll admit to being a reformed workaholic. Several years ago, an exhaustion meltdown pointed me in the direction of rest.
I took a timeout and discovered relaxation. Insight into my overworking had visited in earlier times, but insight without response and change is only insight. Work is therapeutic, but so are rest, recreation, and play. Strive for balance in daily life and in the mist of change. And spend time in nature’s playground.
I’ve found deepening change by spending more time in natural environments instead of shopping malls. Solitude and nature can coexist on your patio as you meditate, read, pray.
Take a hint from nature and beautify your surroundings. Small changes are often the big changes. Bird watching has become a popular activity along with creating butterfly gardens and sweet havens for hummingbirds. City life doesn’t have to negate trips to the woods. Spending time outside affects your inside.
Our bodies are around seventy percent water and without it we perish. The next time you turn on the water facet – say thank you for the vital liquid. We breathe oxygen from trees, plants, and the atmosphere. We need the natural environment to sustain life. Therefore, we need to learn to interact in healthier ways with the bodies of water on our earth home.
Nature is an awesome playground and many people experience fun, laughter, and the making of memories from the mountains to the beaches. Hiking, bicycling, swimming, boating, picnicking, and outdoor activities stimulate and refresh the mind, body, and spirit. Lee Ann Womack sings, “I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean.”
The awesome splendor of nature leaves me speechless and puts a mystical perspective on priorities. I’ve vacationed at the beach and each oceanic experience is connected to a physical and spiritual reawakening. A few days with sun and sand reduces stress and promotes a sense of tranquility. Visiting the Caribbean Islands is on my bucket list.
Humans interact with the environment by way of the senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell) and reconnecting our senses via nature heightens awareness, enhances curiosity, and gives perspective. Henry Beston wrote “The three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach.” Observing nature’s reaction to change may enhance resiliency and adaptation to what we cannot change and flexibility for what we can change.
Before you trot off to work each morning take five minutes and gaze at the sky. Inhale the air and exhale slowly. Stay in the moment. Reflect on the here-and-now.
I invite you to turn off technology gadgets and go outside with family or friends on weekends. Put worries on the back burner for a while. Do this on a consistent basis and incorporate it into your personal lifestyle. Think about it. Life changes and goes by unnoticed unless we intentionally stop and literally smell the roses along the way. You can make inside and outside changes in your own corner of the world while advocating for worldwide pollution management.
Try the following activities:
1. Go outside some night this week and gaze at the stars. Consider the physical properties of stars. What are stars made of? Do stars change? How are humans connected to the universe? The sun? The moon? How does the earth change when it rotates around the sun? Jump up and down and play with gravity.
2. Try to name the planets. What planet would you want to visit and why?
3. Pick a morning and watch the sunrise. Jot down your feelings.
4. Hold some soil in your hand. Describe how humans depend on these items for survival.
5. Purchase a plant for your windowsill. Ponder on the ingredients it needs to grow. What causes stunted growth?
6. Visit a body of water (i.e., pond, lake, river, stream, creek, ocean) and just lounge and listen.
7. Listen to the next rainstorm. Close your eyes and imagine you are a raindrop.
8. Discuss how your daily life activities change with each of the four seasons.
9. Make a home for toads and frogs in your backyard because they eat flies and bugs. Make peace with helper insects, bugs, and spiders, as they are a vital part of nature and the food chain.
10. Make a compost heap in your backyard from leafs and food scraps.
11. Pick up the trash regularly on the street or road where you live.
12. Read the eye-opening book “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder” by Richard Louv. We must teach our children to love and respect nature so future generations will flourish as planet earth flourishes.
13. Re-read “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson. Published in 1962, this book is credited for laying the foundation for the environmental movement.
14. Consider joining a conservation organization or environmental club. Donate to the association of your choice.
15. “Ollie Outside” by Michael Oberschneider is a picture book that invites kids and parents to get outdoors and focus on family fun. Read it under a tree with your children.
Mother Nature and human nature are perpetually linked. And Albert Einstein proclaimed, “Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect, as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.”