Imagine a little pond set back in the redwoods and pines of northern California. Walking amongst these giants, imagine looking up along their trunks. And hearing the wind moving through the forest. Smelling the scent of pine in the air or the soft, earthy humus under your feet. Feeling connected, in some indefinable way, to something bigger than yourself.

It could be called a sacred, spiritual place full of mystery and awe. A space that deeply moves, perhaps even transforms, anyone who enters.

This little pond is an important place for a friend of mine. He talks about how important it has been to him over the years. During stressful times, he would visit this special space, always finding refreshment and renewed strength to fight his stress.

A bit further south, there is another special place for my friend – a cliff overlooking San Pablo Bay right outside San Francisco. This sacred space, while also giving peace and refreshment, offers different gifts. Reminiscing about this place up on the cliff, he says, “I’m overwhelmed by the beauty it offers. The panorama is absolutely beautiful and it changes with the seasons and time of day…It gives me a warm and awesome love of nature.”

Where are the places or spaces in nature that refresh or nourish you or give you a sense of peacefulness or renewal?

It’s different for everyone. There are some special natural landscapes that tend to captivate the minds and hearts of many: oceans, mountains, and deserts to name a few.  Within these broader landscapes lie so many wonderful spaces, perhaps a particular tree, cliff, canyon, or creek.

Elk rut in Rocky Mountain National Park

Or perhaps it’s a particular time of year that moves something inside of you: spring bird migration; first snowfall; a barren winter landscape; fall rut for elk, deer, and sheep; summer monsoon season in the desert. Or perhaps it’s a special animal – a bear, horse, or dolphin or a beloved canine or feline companion. For some, it may not be a particular place or time, but other natural phenomena, such as moonrise, sunset, nighttime, gazing at the Milky Way.

One of my favorites happens during the first frost here in central Texas (and all across most of the eastern U.S.) when the stems of frostweed split open, releasing their sap, which then freezes into beautiful, graceful, snow-white ribbons along the stem. To see what I mean, check out this web page. Better still, I hope you’ll witness it for yourself, perhaps this fall.

Letting Nature Help

When we are suffering – from grief, sadness, loneliness, anxiety, confusion, and so on – it is not unusual to seek out medication and perhaps talk therapy. Or, more often, people may be tempted to connect with addictions – social media, busyness, shopping, substances, work.

And it seems that more and more people are finding themselves suffering. Sometimes not exactly knowing why they are suffering, they try to push it aside, bury it down deep, or pretend it is not there. Ironically, though people often feel they are alone in their suffering, studies reveal that this is untrue.

Over the past several decades, research suggests depression, anxiety, chronic stress, and suicide rates have all risen.

Yet, hiding our suffering from one another means we all continue to suffer alone, together.

Our mental health suffers when we feel isolated and alone, disconnected from meaningful relationships with other people. Our mental health also suffers when we are disconnected from nature. This is where natural places – those special places and sacred spaces in nature – can be so helpful. Spending intentional time on a regular basis in these places and spaces helps heal, comfort, and nourish the mind, body, and spirit.

We are a part of this world, this community, this life. We are not separate, and we are not alone. What we do matters and affects every living thing around us. And, in turn, we become affected by the natural world around us, including the people who live in it.

Soon, I will be offering free community nature walks with a focus on connection – connection with each other and connection with the natural world around us. My hope is that, by allowing for greater and more meaningful connections, it will help alleviate some of the pervasive loneliness, longingness, and anxiety that simmers within so many people. I hope you will join me. I’d love to see you.