January 21, 2014

Nature as the Elixir of Life.

I find myself filtering through numerous nature photos on a daily, if not hourly, basis.

If I was a professional nature photographer, I would probably never make it home until nightfall, but then again, that is when a whole different world emerges and the nocturnal sounds of the surroundings emanate from every fiber of the earth.

Nature is in my blood, and has been since I was a little girl. When we were kids we didn’t just have the usual family dog or cat; instead we had a skunk, mice, gerbils, many species of turtles that lived in a kiddie pool, rabbits, frogs, lizards, mutts, you name it. We lived in a thriving metropolis, which was the farthest place you could imagine any species to live or prosper, but we made it work.

My brother and I were bound and determined to have small habitats for all the adopted beings to have a comfortable place to rest their four-legged bodies. I believe it set the stage for his work with the Nature Conservancy and my own passion for helping animals in the best possible way. I’m concerned with the welfare of animals that don’t have a voice, are suffering in one way or another, and for the causes that deserve special attention to preserve a species desperately hanging on for survival.

My greatest inspiration comes from nature. There is no other force in life that nourishes me and inspires me to be who I am and the most that I can give. I consider myself a simple human being, willing to sit outside for hours writing and listening to everything around me. I could stare at a ladybug ambling around the dirt, a bee pollinating from flower to flower, or a hummingbird sipping its juices for the day, only to realize in that moment, all is well.

We live close to a lake, so the balance of water and earth balances me and fills my senses every single day. There are ducks floating along peacefully every morning and afternoon, allowing their natural instincts to dictate what their bodies will do. Occasionally, a great blue heron will glide in and disrupt the serene order of the ducks, but they seem to go about their business once the hubbub has died down. Hawks and predatory vultures are always swirling around in the sky waiting for the remnants of the next kill. Small wrens and meadowlarks gracefully perch on branches and sing to their hearts’ content.

I take this all in.

It almost drowns out the distant noises of traffic and the feelings of a city hustling around in the midst. I almost can’t hear it if I breathe consciously enough to allow my chest to expand and a smile to adorn my face.

Whenever I even think about, live near, or travel to the ocean I receive more inspiration than I ever imagined. The vastness of that large mass of salt water gives me extreme amounts of spiritual goodness minute by minute. I always feel motivated, creative, open, willing, and more in tune with myself and the world around. Years ago I used to walk to the oceans’ edge at sunrise and sunset with my little dog. So many thoughts would fill my mind and I couldn’t get home fast enough to write them down, but I managed to conjure up a story with the remnants that lingered in my soul. It’s not as if I need to be in the ocean every day, I just need to know that it is there, close by, with each wave and ripple sending me signals of hope and trust. Walking on the beach at moonlight is by far the most gratitude experience I have ever encountered. Never any ambient city light, only traversing in the sand by the light of the moon, this is nirvana to me.

Living in the woods has an entirely different set of rules. Whereas the ocean almost demands respect and appreciation, the woods offer solace and contemplation. Having been lost in the woods before, I was feeling a bit claustrophobic, but marveling at the largeness of the trees, the smells of fresh redwood and cedar, the crunching of leaves below my feet, and always happy to return to the confines of a small cozy abode with the fireplace lit. It’s as if the world around me dances to its own tune, and I’m such a small piece of it. It can be a lonely feeling, but it has its purpose. The air is a bit cooler, the trees are sending off their oxygen signals, and it has a different kind of peace. The critters in the woods at night rummage through your life and almost give you the sense that you are never alone; raccoon, possum and skunks, are the nocturnal ones who have accompanied my journey in the spirit of the woods.

Mountain life is a whole different animal. It has that same feeling that the ocean offers, yet being atop a mountain and at altitude opens my chest to greater breaths and cleaner air. When I lived at 7,800 feet in Colorado I swore I would have the “naked factor” in choosing a house to live in. I needed to venture out onto the deck and feel like there wasn’t a soul around who could see me and my simple life taking shape. It was a small place, but I had privacy, numerous dogs with acres to roam, trails out the front door, snow during the winter, neighbors about a mile down the road, a sense of community and unimaginable 360 degree views.

It was a Utopian environment, and the surroundings alone seeped into my soul forever. The wildlife was vast—mountain lions, bear, coyotes, deer and elk—all of the beings my dogs could chase. Fortunately, no encounters resulted in the suffering of any animal, but my happy self was always in tune with the meanderings of all wildlife nearby.

That is the thing with nature, being aware and having a feeling of oneness. There are hundreds of species of flora and fauna that deserve our constant attention, so much so that if we drop the ball too often, we might be in a world that is too full of constant inhumane courses of action. The inspiration that nature provides is so authentic and plentiful that I couldn’t imagine living without. My heart hurts at the thought of human injustice to any species going through a revival of some sort. We must leave nature to its own course of action, as our lives truly depend on the balance and grounding it provides.

The great environmental warrior, Teddy Roosevelt, once said “Leave it as it is. The ages have been at work on it and man can only mar it.”

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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum


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