I believe in the power of nature. I believe in its ability to fill me with an awesome sense of wonder, inspire my deepest human emotions, and utterly soothe my soul. The amazing thing about this power is that nature needs not bedazzle my senses with epic scenery or close encounters with its most impressive creatures. While a stroll through the Redwood Forest certainly does unleash a flood of humility, peace, and kick starts my imagination this same sense of awe can come from something as commonplace as my back yard, or as fleeting and miniscule as seeing a praying mantis in downtown Grand Rapids. Maybe I’m just easily amused.
When I am under the complete influence of nature, I tap into feelings unreachable by any other means. When I am alone with the symphony of the wind, the gallery of the stars, and the companionship of the land it is all I can do to keep from crying – crying for the loved ones I’ve lost and the ones I haven’t; the uncertainties of my life and its immense potential; and all of the greatest joys and deepest miseries of my being. No matter what thoughts the natural world inspires, no matter how sorrowful my emotions may be, I’ve never come back inside with anything but goodness in my bones. Nothing in this world is as euphoric as a draught of fresh air and a glimpse of its natural beauty.
For me, Central Park is the epitome of nature’s influence over me. When I travelled to New York with my brother to visit my cousin last fall I went for no other reason than pleasure. However, something about the way nothing stops, the flashing lights, the millions of people in the greatest of hurries, and the way urgency and stress permeates the entirety of the city made it impossible to escape a growing sensation of tension in my gut. And then I went to Central Park.
The difference between Times Squares and Central Park is akin to life and death. As I walked off 7th Ave. into the park the stillness hit me in the chest like a breaking wave. My heart failed for a moment. I exhaled and all of the tension, the stress, and the stiffness that accumulates like so much pollution passed from my body. My lips curled in a smile. My eyes scanned the scene before me. The trees, the ponds, the grass, even the people, were at peace. I was at peace. My heart tried to crawl up my throat, but I put it back in its place. In a matter of steps I had walked from the biggest, busiest, most stressful city in the nation into a lush landscape rivalling the elegance of the finest royal gardens. I talked in hushed tones for fear of upsetting the peace. People stepped more softly. Even the rustling of the leaves respected the atmosphere achieved. Not even the skyscrapers towering over the trees were able to overcome the harmony of the park. I had left the wasteland and entered the jungle. How could anyone who lived here ever go back to the subway having wandered through this enchanted forest? The dichotomy of Central Park and NYC will always be one of my finest memories.
For me, nature has always fuelled a romantic inclination my life, and is my continual fount of wonder and serenity. Whenever my heart is weary from life’s tribulations, a quick hike though the woods never fails to lift my burdens.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.