There are many reasons why we need nature. Perhaps the one that draws me most often is its ability to bring me to a happy place, to free me my mind from negativity and confusion, and put a smile on my face and a lightness in my heart.
When I’m stressed or having a bad day, or just feeling terrible because life seems hard or the world seems kind of rotten, I go out in nature and the smell of the air, sound of the wind and water, and the excited little movements of birds and other lifeforms ease away the pain. Nature doesn’t erase the ugliness of the rest of the world, but it helps restore my own spirit, giving me the strength to face it.
Yesterday, some vile person deployed explosives near the end of the Boston Marathon route. Those bombs killed at least three people and injured more than 140 more. Runners and spectators suffered severe injuries, some losing limbs. One of those killed was an eight year old boy.
I’m in Florida right now, many miles away from Boston. I feel helpless, as I’m sure I would even if I had been home in New Hampshire, only two hours from the city. Still, it doesn’t make any sense, and down here, even with the tragedy on every television I come across, I feel isolated in my pain. When devastation hits so close to home and touches something you love and that has become a part of you, you feel it differently I think.
I was in Back Bay, the area where the explosions occurred, just one month ago visiting friends. I knew runners in the marathon – some were teammates from my college track and field team. The bombings are senseless, cruel, and devastating.
This morning, I went for a run around Vilano Beach. I like to run or do some other physical activity every morning because it gets my day off to a good start, and like nature, exercise is therapeutic. Getting outside, in the fresh air, and moving helps clear my head. On my morning run, I saw a pelican and flowers. I watched the sun rise and saw the light of the day turn from blue to gold to white. Sand sparkled on the dunes, and the sweet scent of the salty ocean air mixed with the smells of spring filled my nostrils. There is a flowering vine here called confederate jasmine that I particularly love. Gulls flew overhead, laughing, their white bellies glowing in the morning light, and grackles cackled as they plucked food scraps off the sidewalk and flew them to the tops of nearby palm trees.
The world is no better nor no more evil today than it was yesterday or the day before that. During our lifetimes, we will experience a lot of cruelty and suffer many pains. Sometimes the world will seem hopeless and horrible, but it’s not. For each individual that exists with cruelty in their soul and hate in their heart, there are hundreds of thousands more who are filled with love and compassion. Despite the tragedy of yesterday, I think we need to feel hopeful knowing this. I also think we need to embrace what it is we love about the world, be it friends and family, or wild things and open spaces, and be thankful for all that we have, because it really is so so much.
If like me, you are struggling to make sense of all this or another misfortune in your life, stop. Go outside. Find nature. Spend some time with her. You’ll feel better when you do. She won’t give you the answers to all your questions, she won’t resurrect the dead, and she won’t erase the bad things that sometimes happen in this world, but she’ll remind you that there are so many good things too.