Posted by Lexi Sammler, GD Creative Nonfiction Section Head for 5.1
From a young age, I discovered the ability to lose myself in nature. I pride myself in stopping to smell the flowers, going on walks in the woods, and embracing the quiet sounds of nature. Each step I have made through crunching leaves has allowed me to better myself as a writer. I have learned to appreciate and meditate in nature beyond the small creatures of the forest. I am thankful for all the green grass in my life, the cool breezes, and the reminder of my childhood that comes from stepping outside.
Nature is a constant throughout my life. Humans have depended on nature for sustenance from animals, guidance through the stars, and the ability to wander about the woods for adventure. Some of the oldest stories come from nature herself. From stolen moments of sharing a sunrise, to feeling free in the breeze—nature helps us reach our highest self. Nature embodies the cycle of life, the wisdom we obtain, and the need for reflection through a higher awareness.
As for my story, my favorite activity in the fall is raking leaves. The reward of this task is diving into the leaves—breaking sticks along the way, feeling slimy wet bugs hit my skin, and crisp dry leaves crumble at my weight. The energic excitement that comes from jumping into a pile of crisp leaves is everlasting in my heart. Sometimes I capture my heart jumping, freeing itself, into a similar pile of leaves as I read. These feelings are colored in autumns’ warm pallet of reds, burnt oranges, and the staining of green into yellow. I feel myself jumping into leaves like a child when I read a new piece of inspiring literature. I feel it when I enter my house and my dog’s eyes meet mine. The feeling of being missed; the feeling of entering a home; the feeling of love. The comfort of exchanging a nod of understanding. An exchange beyond words, beyond consciousness. As I depart the pile of leaves, I re-enter the brisk autumn air and catch a smile from a stranger, and into the leaves, I fall again.
This feeling can be transported, and obtained, simply from reading good writing. As I immerse myself into the pages of another writer’s thoughts, I feel myself entering an almost separate dimension. A place where time-travel is possible and feelings evaporate from the writers’ words to the readers’ soul. Good writing allows me to feel welcomed in a separate space; aware of my surrounds, and feeling all different types of sensations.
Creativity waits for all of us; in the leaves, in the snow, among the flowers, up in the branches of a tree. Hiding behind the passages of a novel, meditating in the spaces of black and white text. To immerse oneself in nature, to cherish time, to wander in a dream—is a recipe for stillness, and in turn creativity. To heal though this style of meditation is to resonant with oneself, beyond self-reflecting, and day dreaming.
I honestly believe that my relationship with nature has bettered me. The way I interact with others is kinder and gentler after I have taken a walk in nature. I have time to stabilize my thoughts and balance myself. In a National Geographic article by scholar Brian Clark Howard, he interviews author Richard Louv, explaining further how connecting with nature boosts creativity and health:
A study at the University of Kansas found that young people who backpacked for three days showed higher creativity and cognitive abilities. People in hospitals who can see a natural landscape have been shown to get better faster. As an antidote, we need to figure out ways to increase nature time even as technology increases. It has to be a conscious decision (Howard).
Thanks to nature, I am here: the earth holds me. While some may take this for granted, I am grateful to be housed on this planet I call home.
“Today’s children and families often have limited opportunities to connect with natural environment. Richard Louv called this phenomenon, ‘nature-deficit disorder.’ In his book, The Last Child in the Woods, he opened the nation’s eyes to the developmental effects that nature has on our children” (“Benefits of Connecting Children with Nature”). Spending time in nature is highly important for a child’s development. After spending time in nature, “children’s social, psychological, academic and physical health is positively impacted when they have daily contact with nature” (“Benefits of Connecting Children with Nature”). This research supports the benefits of children spending time in nature and the positive impacts with nature.
In a Journal of Planning Literature, writer L. Chawla expands on the benefits of children connecting with nature through contact.
Benefits of nature contact for children identified through this review include positive outcomes in the following areas: physical health, cognitive functioning and self-control, psychological well-being, affiliation and imaginative play, and affiliation with other species and the natural world – all related to children’s realization of their capabilities” (Chawla).
Playing outside is not just for a child’s enjoyment—it affects their minds, their mood, and their memories. Movement and growth through nature positive effects a child’s development.
In every adult, a child rests. The child in me awakens through my presence in nature and similarly through reading. The child in me recalls these moments I cherished in the outdoors. Because of my time in nature, I feel more in touch with my soul and my spirit. When I wish to write, I wish to write about my time in nature as a child. To appreciate the mysteries of the universe and to live with the trees is a dream come true. As write for you today, I write as the child in my heart jumps into a fresh new pile of leaves. And for right now, my hunger for adventure is satisfied by the sound of typing. As I continue to learn and grow as a writer and reader, nature remains my constant source of energy—a place to release my inner child.
“Benefits of Connecting Children with Nature.” Natural Learning Initiative (2000): 1-4. Natural Learning.org. NC State University/ College of Design, 01 Jan. 2012. Web. 23 October 2016. https://naturalearning.org/sites/default/files/Benefits%20of%20Connecting%20Children%20with%20Nature_InfoSheet.pdf
Chawla, L., (2015). Benefits of nature contact for children. Journal of Planning Literature, 30(4), 433-452. https://www.childrenandnature.org/research/research-findings-make-a-compelling-case-for-incorporating-into-community-plans-provisions-for-access-to-nature-in-the-places-where-children-live-play-and-learn/
Howard, Brian Clark. “Connecting With Nature Boosts Creativity and Health.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 30 June 2013. Web. 23 October 2016. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/06/130628-richard-louv-nature-deficit-disorder-health-environment/