Nature’s Therapy

by Mary Clista Dahl

Woman contemplates stream from a wooden BridgeI experienced loss not long ago.  I have learned to accept and honor the grieving process that accompanies this and works its way through me randomly.  This afternoon brought loneliness and sadness.  Whether related to that loss, I’m not sure, but the feelings brought me back to thoughts of that time, so that is where I let it be.  Unrest turned to agitation, so a necessary ecotherapy session was in order, and I headed out to a favorite park for solace.  Blue sky and sun peeked through heavy puffy clouds of grey and white, begging me to find shapes, but my light heart was heavy today, a rare occasion when I couldn’t tap into my positive energy.

The downhill path leading to this park opens up to a clearing consisting of a meadow, orchard and small forest.  When I reached the opening, the instant beauty took my breath away.  The sun radiated down on me, basking my face in warmth and reminding me that there is something bigger than my sadness.  A man in a wheelchair was situated on the path with his back facing me.  When I approached him we exchanged friendly “Hellos” and I saw myself in his place someday, limited in physical ability, yet possessing the need to be still in nature.

As always happens when I walk alone in the outdoors, my mind clears.  I consciously meditated those pesky, invasive and unanswered “why” thoughts out of my head.  The sun’s rays and cool breeze across my face sped up this process.  The memories that tugged at my heart were cushioned by the nearby rushing sound of Ellicott Creek, so I chose a path that brought me to the bank.  Although the flowing water was comforting, the rowdy teenage boys fishing and texting from a tree were not, so I left them alone to happily indulge in their angst.  They are allowed their different form of therapy.

I walked over the water next, feeling the boards of one of my favorite bridges underneath my feet as I crossed into the sprawling meadow.  The grassy field was bright green and surrounded on all sides by the brilliant red, orange and brown of the trees offering their stunning last sacrifice before winter bareness overtakes them.  Once again I diverted to another part of the creek shore.  This venue was quieter, with two fly fishermen enjoying their own private serenity.  A tree-laden island in the center of the creek completed the canvass.  I stayed for awhile and admired the soft beauty until I felt my breathing regulate and my mind ease more.

I headed back to the meadow and beyond into the woods.  I was alone, but had relaxed enough to let myself be guided by the asters, Norwegian pines, and cottonwood leaves that decorated the trail.  The breeze mesmerized me.  This route looped around in a circle to the other end of the creek, and I found myself drawn to the water once again.  A few thorny stems and some willow branches entangled themselves across the path, but I gently separated them, deliberately making my way to the healing edge.  There is joy here, I know, yet it was more elusive than usual.  The ebb and flow of life was more ebbing today, and since I couldn’t quite pinpoint why, I sat in the feeling for a while.  I heard the unfamiliar call of a distressed bird and glanced around, but could not find the source.  I watched beautiful leaves get carried down the stream and was intrigued by a pool of bobbing apples across the way.  Life was happening, and I was glad that I had made it my intention to become one with it now.

The trail ended back at my walking bridge and as my muddy sneakers set foot on the wood, I made a decision to stop in the center to celebrate a contemplative moment of gratitude inspired by the creek’s rushing below me.  I closed my eyes, rested my head in my arms on the railing, smiled and listened.  After a few moments I opened my eyes and noticed the following written on the railing, “Through the exhaustion we can always find a way to the laughter, Tyler Knott.”  This is a truth I know and understand, so I embraced the scribbled reminder.

Tyler's Quote written on wooden plank

On the way back to the car, I wandered through the apple trees, abandoned long ago by the previous orchard owners, half the fruit fallen, decaying, returning to the earth, the other still thriving bright red on the branches.   That is how I see myself in this moment.  I am human, not meant to be perfect or always whole.  Mother Nature has soothed my soul, brought me to peace as she promises always.  I pass the man in the wheelchair again who smiles back when I wish him an enjoyable afternoon.  My energy level rises from the gesture.  More so when I pull out of the parking lot and see one of those Halloween witches smashed into a telephone pole with a sign that declares, “Don’t text and fly.”  Finding my way back to laughter through the exhaustion, thanks to another successful ecotherapy session.

A few miles down the road when I pass a funeral home with an overcrowded parking lot and people huddled together closely outside, I understand that I am not the only one who grieves.  We all do.  It is the shared price we pay for the coveted gift of love.

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