Return to Nature for Spiritual Restoration

Spending time in the natural world recharges us on a primal level, and you don't have to take a special trip to return to nature. Parks, green spaces and even vacant lots are all sources of direct contact with the earth.

  • City park
    You can find nature even in the middle of the city, in parks and green spaces.
    Photo by Fotolia/f11photo
  • Step Into Nature
    "Step Into Nature," by Patrice Vecchione, is a companion to reconnect us with the vast wonders of the natural world. The sky outside an apartment window, the grass peeking out from between the sidewalks or the park down the block all have the capacity to help us return to nature and to our selves; Vecchione suggests simple ways to reconnect—no new boots required!
    Cover courtesy Beyond Words

  • City park
  • Step Into Nature

A breath of fresh air can be all we need to center ourselves again, and Patrice Vecchione highlights the importance of reconnecting with nature to engage the healing power of the outdoors in Step into Nature (Beyond Words, 2015). Vecchione's friendly, accessible writing, interspersed with suggestions, activities and resources designed to assist you in your return to nature, shows you how just stepping outside your front doorstep can shed light on creativity and imagination. The following excerpt is from chapter 1, "The Allure of the Earth."

To find more books that pique our interest, visit the Utne Reader Bookshelf.

Landscape was here long, long before we were even dreamed. It was here without us. It watched us arrive. —John O’Donohue

We come from the earth. The desert, forests, and plains are our ancestral home. Once upon a time, our floors were dirt and our stoves were open fires; water was sipped from a stream. There was nothing to separate us from the land. People believed that their power came from the earth. Though we’ve drifted away from that ancient awareness, our cells have not forgotten, nor have our spirits. It’s the modern mind that has gone astray. But it hasn’t traveled so far that reclamation isn’t possible. Now is a good time to rediscover our roots. Our imaginations and our bodies, to say nothing of the earth herself, will benefit from our return.

Beyond any single thing, nature’s appeal comes from her aliveness and from the fact that we’re a part of her. It’s alluring to return to the place we once knew as well as our own names. How could it be otherwise? As much as we love a bed at day’s end, or a kitchen with hot running water, the natural world is still our home. If we seek liberty from walls, a plaster firmament, and swept floors, we might find that freedom from one thing can provide freedom into another. The difference between inside and out isn’t just a variation of containment, though that’s part of it. The power and presence of the earth is significant.

Brandon Stanton’s book of photographs, Humans of New York, captures a wide array of personalities. Some pictures are accompanied by a subject’s comments. One caught a gray-haired elderly woman smiling beatifically at the camera; she said, “Every time I force myself to go outside, something wonderful happens!” I know just the feeling. It can be a matter of forcing myself sometimes because of inertia or a frightfully long list of things to do, but getting out the door is always worth it. On a similar note, Charles Montgomery’s book, Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design, documents that people in cities are happier when they pass by small parks. Montgomery writes, “Green space in cities shouldn’t be considered an optional luxury. It is a critical part of a healthy human habitat.”

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