Last Saturday, my husband and I found an oasis that was new to us. We drove to the NJ Audubon Society for a hike through the woods along the Passaic River, listening to birdsong. We spotted a few birds (swallows being the only ones I could confidently identify). Their music was as resonant as the sighting of them was elusive. Sometimes I did spot one fluttering, diving or weaving through the treetops, but only a glimpse.
A couple of years ago, we spent a long weekend in Cape May during peak fall migratory season. Two Audubon guides pointed out egrets, kestrels, and merlins. They trained us to call out the birds’ location by the hour of the clock, to first look with just our eyes, then to lift our binoculars.
Our leaders may not have been impressed with our bird identification (or lack thereof) if they’d joined our hike on Saturday, but they would have been pleased at how happy we were simply being there, appreciating nature. It was such a pretty spot: bushes with little white flowers, a plant that looked almost like honeysuckle, so many chipmunks, an occasional bumblebee, and tall, majestic trees that seemed to emanate wisdom.
On Sunday, we created an oasis in our backyard. We have had grapevines growing over a pergola, but they rested on low beams. By raising them onto higher stilts, we created a space under which you can walk or sit, as I’m doing now, while sparrows eagerly hop around exploring the grass.
Why do we need nature to fill us up and restore our wholeness? Perhaps some of us feel its need more acutely than others, but I would argue that it’s a basic human need. Even if urbanites fill it by a walk through the park on their way home from work, or by having houseplants or an aquarium, none of us can live happily without nature’s balm.
People and nature are deeply interconnected. We rely on it for physical, as well as spiritual, sustenance. Physically, people feel healthier when they eat more whole foods and fewer processed foods. We live in a natural world, no matter how many steel towers are built to live and work inside.
Spiritually and emotionally, there is something soothing about listening to birds singing, hearing the flapping of wings and watching their trajectory in flight. It is energizing to walk through the woods, curious about where the path will lead, deciding which twists and turns to explore. It is meditative to sit by a river, studying the water as it rushes over rocks.
Nature has both stillness and movement. It exists in the present, yet is always growing and changing. No tree or river is the same today as it was yesterday, yet they retain their essence.
What an inspiring model for me, as I consider who I am becoming. I am a writer, coach, musician, wife, nature lover, and play many other important roles, too. How can I move ever closer to who I am?
Who are you becoming? What will help take you there? I would love to hear from you.