A few weeks before my 18th birthday, my dad took my brother and me on a camping trip to the boundary waters of Minnesota (the boundary waters are a series of lakes between northern Minnesota and Canada). We loaded a Duluth pack (a large backpack) and a couple smaller backpacking packs with supplies and headed out in a canoe for a 6-day trip.
We canoed through the lakes and portaged the canoe between them, setting up camp along the way. The accommodations were rustic to say the least. We had to take the canoe to the center of the lake to draw water, then boil the water to make sure it was clean before drinking it or cooking with it. We lived mainly on trail mix and instant oatmeal. We had no showers, unless we wanted to bathe in the frigid waters of the lakes (my 14 year old brother did, but I was not that brave). There were a handful of pre-dug latrines that were literally holes in the ground with a sheet of plywood over the top. We were roughing it, for sure!
When we returned to the lodge after 6 days out, I was in tears at the sight of hot and cold running water in the bathroom. I was nearly ecstatic about once again using a toilet that flushed. I enjoyed the scenery and adventure, but at the end of the day, this girl likes the modern amenities of city life. Still, I have noticed that returning to nature, even for short day trips has a restorative effect on one’s life, energy, and perspective unlike anything else.
Perhaps it is the serenity that entrances us in the woods or by a river. Perhaps it is the cheerful chirping of birds and bugs that lulls us into a restful state. Perhaps it is the gentle flow of a stream that washes away the stress of a busy life. Perhaps it is the feel of the earth beneath us, unfettered by concrete and blacktop, that pulses life back into us. I think it is all of the above.
Getting back to nature invites me to remember what is most important. It reminds me that seasons of life are passing, as leaves turn colors in fall and new buds grow in spring. Nature offers an oasis from human drives and space to be restored. It is a place to enjoy simple pleasures and re-connect with creation and the Creator.
Re-connecting with nature can take many forms from walking barefoot in the backyard to exploring nature preserves or national parks. Whether you spend a day sitting in the sand at the beach or plan a rustic backpacking trip for several days, the benefits of spending time in nature are immeasurable.
In his book The Age of Missing Information, Bill McKibben explains what lessons can be learned from watching television compared to the lessons taught by nature. He contends that failing to connect with nature causes us to lose meaningful life lessons that previous generations knew well. These lessons can be re-learned when we take the time to be in nature on a regular basis. Not only will we learn important lessons about life, but we will feel the restorative effects of rest and renewal in the unspoiled haven of nature.
We will breathe in the fragrance of flowers and fresh air. We will slow our pace to match the meandering river or feel the powerful rush of a waterfall. We will listen more acutely to scampering sounds around us. We will enjoy the cooling breeze and the sway of the trees in the wind. We will embrace the beauty around us and begin to feel that beauty within us too.
Please share your insights in the comments below. How do you connect with nature?