What is it about “nature” that intimidates people so? The responses from clients when asked “What do you like to do outside?” seem to be sadly typical of the general working populace: “There is no nature where I work/live/am.” “It’s too hot/cold/windy/rainy out there.” “I don’t have time to be just staring at some birds.” “My knee/hip/back/pain limits my activity.”
In my recent visit to Branson, Missouri, I encountered the typical navigational challenges while making my way down the too-narrow main street filled with vehicles jostling for position, their passengers looking and pointing at the myriad eateries and attractions, as tourists do.
I quickly realized that my heart was not in the tourist game, especially on a warm and humid day in June. I managed to go with the flow of traffic toward what seemed like the edge of the city only to find a shopping mall, a parking garage, a train station, and a Bass Pro Shop. My hands were gripping the steering wheel, my shoulders were tight, and I felt my blood pressure rising. Breathing deeply, I focused on the road beyond the crowded crosswalk. I saw water! Sure enough, nestled on the southeast side of the city was a parking lot right on the White River!
Rock cliffs rose up on the eastern side of the river, two bridges traversed the moderate expanse and a small RV park was underneath the one closest to my right. I sighed deeply as I relaxed into the surroundings, feeling much less tense. My car positioned at the water’s edge, I pulled out organic veggies and hummus from the cooler and settled in to enjoy a riverside repast.
Visitors came and went in the parking lot, a traveling family also came to dine, a tram tour made its turnaround, boaters cruised up and down the river,
a duck boat tour squawked a narrative as it passed by and soon a fisherman waded into the water to my left, startling the blue heron that had been sentry near the shore.
Swallows flitted and chased, pigeons sat on the overhead wires, and a father mallard was coaching his brood in the art (and science to be sure) of swimming.
Three times the sky darkened and light rain fell, causing a beautiful mist to rise off the water, swallowing the heron.
Canada geese glided by undeterred, and I marveled at the beauty of raindrops as they hit the water.
I gave silent thanks to the city, town, county, state, and national parks and the caretakers of the grounds, plants, and trees that adorn our waterways, village streets, and parking lots with nature attractants. They are not recognized enough for providing healing places for humans to be. All we have to do is expand our awareness to see and experience the calming influence of the natural world surrounding us.