Connecting with Nature
Patrick Mitchell, Glen Ivy Hot Springs Director of Landscapes and Sustainability, Shares thoughts about Connecting with Nature and Earth Day
When I began to think of the theme for this month, “Connecting with Nature,” and what I would write, many thoughts raced through my mind. It’s a big topic and one we often take for granted. We fail to observe nature all around us like the red-tail hawk that soars far above us or the dandelion that sprouts in the cracks of concrete on the city sidewalk we stroll over every day. Each of these missed connections is a missed opportunity for personal growth and improved mental and physical health.
Then I considered writing about therapeutic gardens. But felt that this topic might be limiting to a general audience. To recognize the value of plants in therapeutic settings, however, I will recommend the book Green Nature/Human Nature: The Meaning of Plants In Our Lives by Charles Lewis and published by the University of Illinois Press. Mr. Lewis covers so many important aspects of the human-plant relationship that even an avid gardener, naturalist and restoration ecologist like myself found it enlightening.
As an undergraduate student at Prescott College in Arizona, I learned to recognize that ecology wasn’t something that only happened in natural areas, but rather, it was all around us no matter where we were. I thought I could write about urban ecology and the great efforts at re-wilding that are occurring in many cities across the country but ultimately decided that it is far more important that we go out and volunteer to plant trees or a create a vegetable garden in a corner of our yard than it is for me to tell you about what others are doing.
I thought about sharing some of my personal experiences connecting with nature like watching wolves take down an injured elk in the Yellowstone Valley or learning about agriculture from my grandfather, an Iowa farmer who would dig both hands into his topsoil and raise a handful to his nose to take in its aroma. He did this everyday like a religious ritual and it taught me how important it was to know the piece of earth you dwell on. These experiences and many like them have created in me a deep and intimate connection with the nature around me.
And so, I have ultimately decided that this month, this Earth Day, everyday, I will simply suggest that we all try to connect with nature by watching the birds outside our cubicle windows, or by planting tomatoes on our apartment balcony. Next time you are taking a walk, take the time to look at the tiny plants that grow along your path. Observe the changes in color, light and sounds that occur as seasons change. Or take the time to come to Glen Ivy…lay back on a cozy float in the Lounge Pool and watch the sun as it crosses over the Santa Ana Mountains and maybe you will notice the red-tail hawk that soars above.
See you soon,
Director of Landscapes & Sustainability