Growing up in the green hills of Montana, I never imagined I would one day live in New York City or raise a family here. Anyone living in a city can appreciate how it sometimes seems like the concrete and brick is turning us into stone – we risk becoming harder, invulnerable, closed off. Yet even when it’s just a taste, a quick stolen moment, the antidote to my unsettled soul has always been nature.
If you’ve ever opened a window to the fresh air during a long meeting or wolfed down lunch to fit a walk into a stressful work day, you know the healing power of nature and her elements. Warming yourself by the fire, watching waves roll in and out, appreciating dappled sunlight from a park bench — we turn to nature again and again for sustenance, comfort, and transcendence.
Throughout the years, sages, mystics, and philosophers contemplated the source of nature’s healing energy. I believe it’s about connection – with self, with each other, and with something bigger and more powerful than any of us. In her poem “cutting greens,” Lucille Clifton writes:
I taste in my natural appetite
the bond of live things everywhere.
In moments of sickness, hardship, struggle, and pain we often feel isolated and alone. The power and grace of nature remind us we are not. We are connected to every single living thing by being alive ourselves. In dark days, connection brings us back from the brink and restores us to the flow of life. A sunset, a purring cat, fresh flowers at the deli on the corner – it doesn’t take much, as long as we pay attention to the world around us every moment of every day.
One of my favorite spiritual books entreats us to “plant seeds” in fertile soil: a metaphor for kinship and community any gardener would appreciate. In my wildest dreams, never would have imagined the seeds I planted would one day lead me to what might be the UK’s largest Weeping Beech tree, a billowing green beauty on the grounds of Castle Ashby, the ancestral home of the 7th Marquess of Northampton.
Standing under the cascading Beech foliage, I sensed the groundedness of its roots. I felt the energy contained within its sturdy trunk. I could see the sun and the deep blue sky through the fragrant green canopy. I was in total communion with nature and, though I was alone under the Weeping Beech, I felt “the bond of live things everywhere.”
Deep within the trunk, concentric rings illustrate growth. Elsewhere on the magical grounds of Castle Ashby trees twist and warp – evidence of the mysterious energy radiating throughout the property. Conducive to healing and self-exploration, this powerful vortex draws all surrounding it towards its center – a spiritual wellspring calling us to venture closer to our own truth. Like the trees, we can allow the energy and power of nature to heal us, to shape us into exactly who – and how – we are meant to be.
How might you seek out nature today? How might you allow its healing energy to change you?