In Praise of Nature
When you really need to soothe your soul, take yourself outdoors. And don’t forget to pay attention.
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When Hall in 1982, at age 39, learned she had breast cancer, she went to the family house in Avalon, New Jersey, walked down to the ocean and sobbed. She did the same thing on September 11, 2001. “It felt like I was crying on the breast of a mother,” she says. “It is like an outdoor cathedral.” She also found solace in nature when her husband passed away last July.
Terri Lottmann of Lewes became attuned to nature when she began a walking program. The awareness led to a walking meditation. “One of the myths of meditation is that we’re supposed to be in our heads,” says Lottmann, a massage practitioner. “Being mindful in meditation is being in the present. For me, being outside just enhances that experience.”
Lottmann, like Hall, often feels childlike when she encounters nature. The crackle of leaves underfoot and the smell of pine trees bring back memories. “When you’re driving, you just miss it,” she says.
Blaine Phillips Jr. witnessed that childlike wonder firsthand while walking with his 6-year-old son in the woods. They were headed to Phillips’ parents’ house, normally a 10-minute jaunt.
A deer path caught the child’s eye. “Let’s go this way, Daddy,” he said. Phillips asked if he’d traveled that way before. “He looked at me with those wonderful eyes and said, ‘A million times,’” Phillips recalls. “We spent more than two hours getting to Grandpa’s. We sat by a stream and looked at dinosaur bones.”
It didn’t matter that they weren’t really dinosaur bones or that it was the first time his son had actually taken the path. What mattered was how it sparked creativity. “It was a real lesson for me,” Phillips says. “Get children outside and let imagination take over.”
That is a rallying cry for Phillips, who is the mid-Atlantic director of the Conservation Fund, a national preservation organization. These days, nature is competing with television and computer games. Children don’t rush home from school to go out and play the way their parents did at that age.
With the fear that the youngest generation might be the first “indoor children,” the Conservation Fund is encouraging children to experience the great outdoors.
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