Sometimes when it is my turn to write this column, I know exactly what I want to say and the words flow effortlessly. Such was not the case this time. When I struggle, I often turn to the Internet, type phrases into search engines, and hope that something inspirational will turn up. I hit a gold mine in my search.
Margaret Emerson is a freelance writer, designer, ecopsychologist, and the author of a book entitled ''Contemplative Hiking along the Colorado Front Range.'' She also blogs at contemplativehiking.com. Both her book and her blog include essays and suggested activities on how to connect with nature through contemplative practices while hiking. One of the posts on her blog seemed like a good fit for this column. With her permission, portions of it are re-printed here (she actually listed seven signs). Enjoy this list, then check her blog for the complete essay.
Best wishes for some serious re-connection with nature in the new year from everyone at Audubon.
Regular walks in natural areas can restore your sense of wellbeing.
Photo by Jennifer Schlick
Three Signs You've Become Disconnected from Nature
By Margaret Emerson
1. You view nature as a ''resource.''
Nine thousand years ago, when human beings began to cultivate the ground and grow their food on a more organized and systematic scale, we began to see ourselves as being in control of the land and of nature. For our civilization, it was a turning point. Agriculture and animal husbandry allowed civilization to flourish and develop. We began to tame the forests and prairies and build expansive cities where great minds could invent and explore and innovate.
However, in the process of all this so-called ''progress'' we've become convinced we are somehow separate from nature. We've somehow forgotten that we, too, are animals and that we need a healthy and thriving ecosystem in order to breathe, eat, feel content and safe. We are not exempt from the laws of biology and physics.
We have forgotten that everything is connected; that when we blow off a mountaintop in order to extract coal, we pollute the waterways and air and cause suffering in other ways; that when we kill off the predators in an area to protect our livestock, we see an explosion in the population of herbivores, who soon decimate the landscape with their foraging.
2. You're feeling down and you don't know why.
Human beings need a connection to the natural world in order to feel mentally healthy and whole. Whether that connection is a pet, a garden, a tree or a nearby park - it doesn't matter. Studies have shown that spending time in a natural setting can be psychologically healing and relieve stress. One study in particular done in the U.K. concluded that individuals who spent time walking in a park each day reported feeling less depressed and stressed than another group that spent the same amount of time walking in a mall.
So if you're feeling down and you don't know why, take a walk outside, preferably somewhere with plants and animals and the sound of birds chirping. You'll feel a little bit better, and if you do this often enough, it might just keep the blues at bay.
3. Your idea of a good time is Las Vegas, Monday Night Football and spending the entire day at the mall.
Hey, I'm not saying that you shouldn't enjoy watching sports once in a while or letting it all hang out when you're on vacation. I enjoy shopping and entertainment just as much as the next person. It's when you rely on those things for your sense of fulfillment and joy that it becomes a problem.
What happens when the TV stops working for some reason or you're unemployed and can no longer afford to go shopping? What happens when vacations become staycations due to budget constraints and you're faced with an entire week at home with no money to spend on outside entertainment?
The bigger question is - are any of these activities really contributing to your physical and psychological wellbeing?
There is such joy in seeing mist float over a lake. The sound of rain dripping off trees or the wind combing through a meadow can put you at ease. A deep red desert canyon is both mysterious and timeless to contemplate. None of these things - short of the resources it may take to drive to where they are - cost money to enjoy. You can even find a trail near your house and spend an hour watching birds. Nature is everywhere. You are nature. You belong to this earth, you just need to find your place in it.
If this article inspired some nature related New Year's Resolutions, we'd be glad to help you achieve them at the Center and Sanctuary located at 1600 Riverside Road, Jamestown. Call 569-2345 for more information, or visit our website at jamestownaudubon.org.
Jennifer Schlick is program director at Audubon.