The Benefits of Nature

As my life goes on, I am learning the power of being in nature.

I remember being in nature as a kid. Things like running through the woods behind our home outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We would spend days building forts where the trees were our walls and the sky was our roof. I remember seeing the ocean for the first time when I was maybe 8 years old. We watched a thunderstorm roll in over the ocean. I remember feeling slightly scared but totally awed. I remember sled riding with my 4 siblings, bundled up so tight with winter layers we could barely move our joints. We’d stand in feet of snow as we opened our mouths to the sky to catch the snowflakes on our tongues.

In my 20s, I fell in love with nature. I decided to work at summer camps during college. Little did I know that that camp Director would take me under his wing and teach me the beauty of getting along with nature. He showed me and the other camp counselors how important it was not to fight nature. When we went kayaking on the Potomac River, we would guide the kayaks to flow with the river’s current. When we camped in the Presidential Mountain Range up the Northeast of the U.S, we would leave no sign that we can set up camp. We would leave nature as we found it. I remember hunkering down during a torrential downpour while hiking part of the Appalachian Trail in PA. The lightning and thunder were directly over our heads as we curled up like roly polies* to wait out the storm.

*(remember the Roly Poly? The little grey beetle that would curl up when you picked it up? When it’s the multiple of roly poly…is it polies?).

In my 30s, I moved to California and for the first began to crave nature. I would spend the weeks within the walls of a tech company, loving all the perks but missing time with fresh air. The weekends started to become an escape into nature.

It started by getting my first dog, Masha. A Sharpei/Lab mix who was my sidekick. She would wake me up with her cute snout by my face, nudging me to walk her through the misty, cool morning. In the evenings after work, her excitement to GET OUTSIDE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE TO RUN brought me the same joy! We’d rush around the house to bound out the door and breathe the fresh air.

Being in California changed everything because I could be outside pretty much anytime. I could plan outdoor get togethers or hikes because the sun was shining so much more than anywhere I had lived to date. I used to hate hiking. I found it boring and unadventurous. As I did it more and more in CA, it became a refuge. It became my happy place.

Now here I am, traveling the world for a year. From airport to airport, Airbnb to Airbnb, new bed to new bed. We are changing locations every week or so right now. I’m loving the new sites, sounds and opportunities each location brings. But I’ve noticed that one thing hasn’t changed: Nature still calls. When I take the time out of my day to be outside by the ocean, I start to breathe differently. I start taking deep inhalations and I notice the smells in the air: the salt, the fish, the sand. Once again, Nature is soothing me.

My dear friend, Kim, sends me videos often of the tiny miracles she sees during her morning walks with her pup in Northern California. Beautifully colored mosses, perfectly set up nooks and crannies for fairies to live in, and stunning views of the redwoods. I find myself often wanting to share the nature that I’m seeing where I am in the world.

So far, these are the highlights:

Todos Santos, Baja Peninsula, Mexico: The sunsets. We sat every night and watched Nature paint rich, sweeping colors. This unedited photo below shows some of the color. But, as usual, the photos don’t do it justice. The desert landscape with the ocean right behind it is captivating, to say the least.
Rincon, Puerto Rico: We spent SO much time outside when we were in Rincon, it’s tough to choose a specific moment. The ocean colors were stunning. It was the first time I hiked through a rainforest. I was blown away by how much green there was. I found myself hunting for other colors in the green, like a game. One day we saw this orange-flowered hibiscus tree among the green. Every day, I’d comb the beach for natural treasures. I’d find colors in nature that simply blew my mind. In Lisbon, Portugal we loved how the gorgeous parks incorporated nature into the bustling city skyline. There are wide, sweeping parks throughout Lisbon where there are inviting spots to sit with an espresso and people watch as the sun shines through the old, leafy trees.

We spent the day at the Pena Palace. The castle was amazing but the park around the castle was dreamy. The king and queen had plants brought from all four corners of the world to create this park. We spent about 5 hours walking through just the park.
One area of the park was covered in one of my favorite flowers, the pansy. Look at the colors and the detail in these very tiny flowers.

I’m grateful that no matter where I am in the world, I can go back to the calm and peace I find simply in being outside. I was once told, many years ago, that if you go outside without any shoes or socks on and just stand on the earth, it will bring peace. I find that to be very true. Walk in your bare feet on the grass or the dirt and see if it doesn’t bring a smile to your face.

Finally, this is a beautiful poem I saw while walking the coastline in Portugal:

Have a great weekend everyone!

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