Abundant Health: Appreciating the healing balm of simple outdoor recreation

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man and girl walk on wooded trail
by Rebecca Warren

“I sincerely believe that for the child, and for the parent seeking to guide him, it is not half so important to know as to feel”
– Rachel Carson, author of “The Sense of Wonder”

Exploring nature soothes our spirits, stimulates our minds, and even heals our bodies.

Nature is not confined to national parks or vast landscapes but thrives outside our doorways. Face the wind, feel the warmth of the sun, bend to smell a flower, finger the soil, pluck and taste a homegrown sugar snap pea. And bring a child along — not for a lesson but for the sheer joy of being outdoors.

Literature about children’s need to be outdoors abounds. A well-known book is “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder,” by Richard Louv. The “wired generation” needs the outdoors, Louv claims, as he links childhood obesity, depression, and attention disorders to a lack of nature experiences. To correct the deficit, Louv avows a Leave No Child Inside Movement. Moving from Inside to Outside contributes to the well-being of a child’s development.

In the book “The Geography of Childhood: Why Children Need Wild Places” authors Gary Paul Nabhan and Stephen Trimble write: “Wilderness…is where you can play with abandon. In a word, playfulness may be the essence of wilderness experience.” For a child a “few intimate places mean more” than all of the “glorious panoramas” adults can show them. It’s the gazing up and kneeling down that guides our relationship with nature. The shifting scene of clouds, the scent of soil.

Adults can be fellow travelers in these outdoor journeys. Don’t share answers. Be a discoverer. Don’t make suggestions. Let nature introduce herself. Be silent but listen well. But if adults want to learn, consult local nature guides so native plants and animals can be the objects of curiosity.

Author Patricia K. Lichen has written a trilogy of “Uncommon Field Guides” whose subjects range from “River-Walking Songbirds” to cattails and dragonflies. For spring reading there is always “Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds” by Seattle author Lyanda Lynn Haupt.

In nature nothing is really ordinary; when we pay attention, everything is marvel. How many are your works,

O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. – Psalm 104:24


Rebecca Warren is a member of Montavilla UMC, Portland, Oregon. She serves as the Oregon-Idaho Conference President for United Methodist Women. Her educational background includes a degree in environmental education.

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