There is something deeply meditative in hearing the rustle of the leaves of a tree, in watching a hummingbird kiss the petals of a flower, or in kneeling in a garden when planting spring bulbs. All of us have found ourselves calmed, reinvigorated and inspired both in mind and spirit by the desert colors at dawn, the crisp air in autumn and the moonlit sky on a starry night. Clearly, nature calls to something very deep within us, something that connects us to the universe.

Nature can overwhelm us with spiritual emotions that may surprise us. When we notice the expanse of the ocean or the vastness of the night sky, we sense our fragile place in the world. Thoreau extolled nature as a form of prayer and an antidote to the ‘smallening’ of spirit. Indeed, artists, writers and musicians often speak to the rewards of nature’s inspiration. Keep close to Nature’s heart, wrote John Muir, and break clear away once in a while, climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.

From the great painters of the past to some of today’s most renowned artists, writers and musicians, nature continues to be their muse. For as long as there has been art, artists have been inspired by nature, using and incorporating wood, graphite and clay to create their masterpieces. Van Gogh had the ability to bring simple flowers to life and Monet’s use of shadows, light and water showcased his lilies in his garden in France. Today, artist Andy Goldsworthy uses natural materials such as leaves and stone to create sculptures that reflect the relationship between materials and the surroundings.

Nature not only increases our creativity; it restores and heals us. In his short story Why We Need Gardens author and neurologist Oliver Sacks, MD (1933-2015) wrote, As a writer, I find gardens essential to the creative process; and as a physician, I take my patients to gardens whenever possible. Sacks understood the healing power of nature.

Scientific research continues to show us how being in nature affects our brains and bodies. Studies provide evidence that being in natural spaces somehow calms and soothes us, reduces anxiety and makes us less stressed. It restores our mental fatigue, makes us happier and can make us feel less depressed. In addition, scientists believe nature relieves attention fatigue. 

We are spending more time indoors and online where we are often bombarded with technological information resulting in burnout and information overload. This is particularly true for our children. Being in nature can restore us to a more normal, healthy mental state. Again, scientific research has found that if you use your brain to multitask as most of us do, that setting time to go on a walk in a green space, even for twenty minutes a day can return us to a state of well-being.

Perhaps, and most importantly, nature opens our heart to love, kindness and generosity. Being in nature often fills us with gratitude for being a part of this world and a realization we are part of something bigger than ourselves. Being in the grandeur of Yosemite, the coast of Big Sur, the beauty of our own Joshua Tree National Park, or just noticing the sunflowers on a table served with farm-to-table food, we begin to appreciate what nature gives us freely and to consider more seriously how to preserve the nature around us.

Henry David Thoreau wrote, Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit and resign yourself to the influence of the earth. There is something about nature that renews us, makes us feel better and enables us to open our hearts to ourselves, to our neighbors and the world around us.

Judy Nemer Sklar of Palm Desert is an artist, writer and educator who conducts workshops on Embracing a Creative Life. She can be reached at judy@judynemersklar.com or (760) 902.5467. For more information visit www.judynemersklar.com and www.artistsnarratives.com.

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