Being outdoors restores me, especially my mental health. I am a firm believer that allowing yourself to receive the unconditional loving embrace of Mother Nature is an essential part of healthy living. There is only one hard-fast rule in visiting with her though: no digital devices, with the exception of an internet-disabled camera.
I am blessed to have a backyard in which there is plenty of nature happenings. I get to be a Disney princess every morning surrounded by my familiar and visiting backyard creatures. I feel confident even the flowers are happy to see me. (Well, now I sound more like an outdoor version of a cat lady and/or my unhealthy need to be liked and wanted is coming out…)
Nature has an unexplainable calming magical quality. As a writer and poet and English teacher, it is often impossible for me to describe this effect with our limited worldly communication abilities. I’ve seen it work on others though, particularly with my own adolescent children. You have to take an older child to the nature trail kicking and screaming, but once you toss them out there to lead the way, they transform into innocent, wide-eyed, wonder-filled little kids again.
I have developed a short attention span like my students; they will be the first to admit I am verrrrryyyyyy easily distracted and looooovvvveee to talk and interact (Squirrel!!….). No worries, if you are this type also, though: it is NOT boring to do nature. There are so many grand and minute wonders all about to observe. In fact, it is this “action” that helps with mental wellness, I think. You get both so distracted and entranced that you forget all about your problems and worries. For a while, at least. It’s a natural drunkenness, I suppose. But instead of killing your brain cells and forgetting what you did the whole time you were under the influence, you get to remember and keep with you always what you experienced in your natural getaway. Later, when the problems surface again, you can administer another dose of nature or simply recall it: I carry in my mind’s eye a gallery of colors and birdsongs and shell whispers, and it is always accessible, much like music.
Nature’s effect, simply by emerging yourself in it, is profound. But I am deep thinker and also a dreamer, so I get the added benefit of finding a story or lesson in every single observation. I came out to my backyard patio hours ago already with my morning coffee, intending to write for a bit. I didn’t get to writing for a long while because, even though I do it almost every single day, I had to make my rounds through the yard, being drawn in again by this and that, some new, some the same.
Here are this morning’s observations…
The first thing I reveled in was the way the rising sun was falling so golden upon the trees, causing the shadows to slowly shrink away. This particular tree was looking a bit rough, the creeper vines not entirely expunged and the quenching rains sparse in the hot Southern temperatures. This tree stands strong and majestic in spite of these hardships, though. It is both sad and inspirational to me. I am always ready for the next rain to wash away and refresh me, offer its essential nourishment. I, too, carry the chokers of the past, cut free from the source, but the vines still cling to me and remind me, and I have to learn to grow with those things that remain a part of me.
This got me to thinking about how I always have a tendency to champion the underdogs and favor the unpopular. In nature, this means spending equal if not more time with such things as “weeds” and mushrooms and spiders and snakes. In my classroom, this means I am extra keen and sensitive to those students who seem difficult and those who tend to slip through the cracks. This comes in part, perhaps, because I know what it’s like to feel that way and have to combat that lacking self-esteem regularly. I know how hard it is to believe in yourself when others for so long have told you and shown you that you are not enough. But you are. And it’s easy for others to say not to listen to those negative opinions and actions you’ve experienced, that you are beautiful and worthy and important and wanted and needed: but they’ve never been the mushroom, so they cannot understand. It is a fact, though, that mushrooms have much to offer. (And they always kick up my imagination, going hand in hand with forest fairies and such.)
What got me a bit sentimental, though, was noticing the first hibiscus pair of the season to emerge. The timing of this each season seems too coincidental to me, always symbolizing something going on with me personally, internally. Yesterday, I worked overtime in battling a melancholy mood that really took me down the day before. It’s not until I can muster back up enough strength to raise my sword for another round of life that I can rise again; I still carry the pain, another dent in my shield. My shield is riddled with these, each with a story untold. It is always after such a meek and shaky-footed rising that I seem to see the double-hibiscus bloom, as if a sign from above reassuring me that it’s good growth to keep trying to open up despite my instinct to be that closed and guarded bud.
I also always enjoy all the stages of growth simultaneously present in the hibiscus bush.
I don’t think it’s possible to have your pains overtake you when you let Mother Nature help and work her magic and retreat into the open arms of her loving embrace. It’s an unconditional love she seems to have for us. The natural world is a testament at all times that we, that I, am never truly alone. It is a relief and I, for one, am grateful for the free and universal therapy.