This I Believe

D. Jean - Arvada, Colorado
Entered on February 8, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65
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I believe connection to the natural world is critical for the health and well being of all people. Hills and valleys; rocks and boulders; flowers and trees; and the diversity of other animals can provide grounding and a sense of spiritual renewal by their timelessness, ongoing cycles, beauty and peace. I believe there is an interconnectedness and continuity among all things … life and death … biological and physical resources…that which was before and that which will be … mankind, other organisms, and the physical world….

During the most stressful times of my life … divorce, very difficult employment circumstances, and inter-personal upheavals…the out-of-doors has been wonderfully restorative to me. Hiking, driving through the countryside, observing beautiful scenery, feeling the sun and the wind not only lifts my spirits, but provides me with a sense of being integrally connected to a larger whole, a functioning ecosystem. When I walk on resilient trails made of dirt, not cement or asphalt; when I see trees that are gnarled and twisted by their environment, but still grow strong; when I see rocks that have been smoothed by the ongoing flow of water or split by its freezing, yet remain; when I see flowers that bloom and go by, yet return another season; when I contemplate the diversity of foraging birds, singing to defend their breeding space, and using their respective niches in balance—my sense of peace goes beyond the benefits of exercise and outward focus. When I see the beauty and constancy of a morning sunrise, even in the midst of personal anguish or frustration, I feel grounded and restored—my spirit soars.

I believe this connection to the natural world is a primordial instinct that, to mankind’s detriment, is being buried in the trappings of civilization. When I hear that a smaller percentage of people visit national parks and use other outdoor resources, and when I see increasing numbers of artificial animals on lawns, artificial flowers in vases, and hikers or cyclists turned in to their headsets rather than the natural chorus, it both saddens and concerns me.

I believe that, in an increasingly urban environment, it is important to be intentional about experiencing the natural world, about watching, listening to, and understanding the other living things that inhabit our planet—to remain meaningfully connected to the ecosystem that sustains me physically and can sustain my spirits. I believe that taking a daily moment to consciously experience the restorative power of the natural world, benefits me and contributes to the collective good of my world.