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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“It’s an issue we’re just beginning to understand,” Phillips says. “It’s not just about nature. It’s about public health. And we’ve spent so much time and energy on conserving our resources. What happens when today’s kids, who’ve not been stomping around in wetlands, are caretakers for our public lands?”
The Delaware Nature Society offers programs for all ages to encourage an appreciation of nature. “We want them to enjoy outdoor activities and enjoy lifelong pursuits,” says Michael E. Riska, the executive director. To be sure, being outdoors often involves a hobby, be it birding, hiking, photography or gardening.
Lottmann works on an archeological dig in Rehoboth Beach. Riska gardens with native plants. Luzader loses herself in her herb garden, where she grows basil, rosemary, lemon balm, lavender and lemongrass.
You also can feed your soul while working up an appetite. At least that was the belief of John Harvey Kellogg, creator of Corn Flakes and operator of Battle Creek Sanitarium in the late 19th century. A Seventh-Day Adventist, Kellogg touted his religion’s principles, along with the theory that marches helped digestion. Good health and fitness were the result of a good diet, exercise, correct posture, fresh air and proper rest.
As the belief that fresh air could treat chronic diseases became popular, sanitariums for tuberculosis and other diseases sprung up in the mountains and on the coast. Today many acknowledge the benefits of taking it to the beach, the woods or the park.
“Take exercise outdoors, away from the blaring music and hustle and bustle of the gym,” says Matt Carter, co-owner of Quest Fitness and Quest Kayak in Lewes. “The air quality is better, and the scenery is better.” Carter recently set a goal to run from the Indian River Inlet to the Roosevelt Inlet—on the beach.
Hall, a yoga instructor, loves practicing outdoors, especially when she is teaching women with breast cancer and children. This summer, she will teach at Delaware Hospice’s Camp New Hope at Lums Pond, a program for children and adolescents ages 6-17 who’ve lost a loved one.
Riska says Delawareans are fortunate to have so many places where they can commune with nature. He points to the Delaware Nature Society’s own Coverdale Farm and Ashland Nature Center. “I love hiking in these places, looking for wildflowers,” he says.
Both Riska and Luzader have explored Trap Pond State Park, home to the northernmost stand of bald cypress trees. The mysterious-looking trees also inhabit Trussum Pond, which has a primitive atmosphere. “I go there when it’s really hot in the summertime,” Riska says. “Back by the cypress, it’s cooler.”
Whether it’s your garden, the shore or under a shady tree, just do it, advocates say. Go outside. But do it with awareness. “In the fast-paced world in which we live, it’s important to pull off the earphones and be mindful of our senses,” Lottmann says.
Hall agrees. “The smell of the fresh air—it’s very healing,” she says. “And right now it’s out there for everybody. In these economic times, it makes sense to take a walk rather than buy a new pocketbook.”