It Takes Time for Nature to Heal Us

Nature may not instantaneously heal us – it takes time to release our tensions. Take hiking as an example.

Sometimes at the beginning of hikes my mind will play games: “Why are you doing this?” Or my favorite: “Go back home.”

But through prolonged presence, these thoughts begin to fade away.

What do I mean by “presence?”

hiker on mountaintopHiking is the art of intentful walking. If we wish to walk in safety, we must concentrate our attention on where each foot is being placed and on the external environment. 
With enough of this presence our mental attention becomes aligned with our physical actions, allowing us to temporarily disengage from thoughts, which may have previously plagued us. We can become absorbed with what we are doing; fully present with our internal and external landscapes. When we are immersed in our doing, we connect to the stories of life, which dance all around us, instead of being lost in the stories the mind may tell us.

This allows for a release, it comes in many forms: bliss, insight, perspective change, heightened sensations, feelings of unity.

Nature has the remarkable capacity to heal us, but first we need to let it.


Scott is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan. He is a traveler, writer, poet, photographer and full-stack storyteller. He finished his Master’s Degree in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Michigan in April 2016. During his degree, he was fortunate to take 11 classes on mindfulness and nature-based spirituality. He has taught meditation, yoga, nature-based mindfulness and helped to lead a large student wellness collective. After the completion of his degree, he was awarded the Bonderman Fellowship, a fellowship given to 4 graduating students to travel to and immerse in non-Westernized regions, alone, for 8 consecutive months. Since returning home Scott has been speaking to schools and publishing his writing and poetry. Above all, Scott cite’s his connection and the time he has in nature as the most important constructs in his life.

To read more, please visit ScottHaber.com or find him on Instagram @HaberScott.

Photo supplied by the author.

Finding Joy in Life with Art and Nature

Agave and cactus in desertCrunch, crunch. With each step forward in my worn down hiking boots, the noise and bustle of my busy, stressful life quiets to a murmur until all that remains is the present moment. A palette, acrylics, brushes, an easel, along with my camera, my lunch, and two bottles of water form a jigsaw puzzle in my day pack. It is weighted down, a constant tug at my shoulders. I hold a stretched canvas in my hands just so, in order to avoid indenting it.

It is morning, and the cool, crisp breeze caresses my face and I breathe it in deeply. I aim my face to the sky. The soft, low blue is only interrupted by the jagged red canyon walls. I am on the Colorado river, just downstream from Lee’s Ferry. It is late September in the high desert of Arizona, and Autumn is a foreign concept. I can already tell that the minute the sun rises from behind the sandstone cliff, the heat will be unforgiving. For now though, my skin prickles in the chilly shade.

I reach the river with a satisfied sigh. I drop my pack and remove my footwear to reunite my senses with the water. The Colorado River and I are old friends. I return a few times every year to reflect on my life and reroot myself in nature. This ritual has become a welcome constant in my life. I perch myself on the same sandy rock on the same bank, next to the same creosote bush looking out to the same view. Sameness welcomes me home, unchanged and stable even though I am not.river and red cliffs

My world seems to be moving more and more quickly. I constantly am rushing around to complete the next item on my lengthy, never ending to-do list. It seems there is not quite enough time in the day no matter how I slice it, and organizing my busy life is a never ending task. I finally check a box and another gets added.

Working more efficiently or for longer may help chip away at the pending items on my queue, but it doesn’t restore my mind and body. Which is why I come here. I come for the stillness and the quiet. I disconnect from the noise with each breath of fresh air. I come to remove myself from my world and revisit the idea that there is a certain stillness and beauty in living simply.

artist painting at easelI am an artist. A working one, but also a student. Art is in all corners of my life. It is what I study, produce, and consume. Creativity of all forms captivates me. It is my purpose on this earth to discover myself in expression and creation. I do not desire a life where I cannot let my imagination take me to the far reaches of possibility. However, the fact that my daily life is so saturated with art and pushing my own limits, I find I need projects that remind me of why I create. I need that taste of freedom and joy of letting go of the elements and principles of design. I need to take a picture for the fun of it. I desire the feeling of making a composition just because it feels right.

When I am here, on the river bank, I approach my old love and let go of all technical aspects of art. I simply paint for the feeling of it. I don’t give myself a chance to get caught in the details. For some reason, being indoors does not lend itself to the same freedom. I have tried to recreate this assignment of letting go in the studio and it never works. With the first touch of my brush to canvas, it all floods back. I reconnect to the value in art, the reason to make it in the first place. It is for the pure joy that comes with creating.close-up of artist brush and hand

As I paint, I observe. I watch fishermen silently slip by on drift boats, birds fly between the canyon walls, the shadows swirl and shift as the sun rises higher. The desert landscape is my muse. The roughness of it all is emphasized with vibrant, illuminated color, almost as if it demands respect and awe. Our society, far removed from nature lacks this type of awe, the awe that has the power to awaken our souls. We need that experience to remind us of why we are here and what we are meant to be doing.

boat on river with cliffsI believe that spending time outdoors is the cure for our stressors and time crunches and anxiety. It is the answer to most of our problems. Taking precious time to simply be in nature and observe the landscape may seem like just another added item in our busy lives, but I have felt the value. The return is far more worthwhile than the time spent. So close the Macbook. Put the to-do list on hold. Lace up those old hiking boots. Fill that day pack. Grab a sketchbook and camera. And take the time to take that hike. Feel what it is like to reunite with your true purpose.


Claire Sipos lives in Flagstaff, Arizona working as a graphic artist and studying photography and the visual arts. She is a photographer, graphic designer, potter, writer, painter, color enthusiast, lover of light, and aspiring filmmaker. Tomorrow, maybe something new will be added to that list. In short, she is a creator, a dreamer, and an explorer in pursuit of full self expression. She plans to never lose her sense of wonder.Photos by the author.

Disciple

—after Mary Oliver

Pencils hidden in trees in case something speaks to her,
in case she is urged to respond as she wanders forest, seashore—
this patch of Province Lands packed with emblems.

Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?

A disciple of Thoreau ― world as cipher, subtext:
the disquieted deer, seven white butterflies,
watchful owl, battered whelk,
the world’s roots, what lies under?

Graced as it is with the ordinary.

It is sweet to wake each day, to taste sea spray,
smell the fecund earth, feel birch bark,

You are the heart of the cedars of Lebanon
and the fir called Douglas
the bristlecone, the willow.

fit onto a meditation seat of moss,
hear the cacophony of birdsong, ocean splash.

I dream at night of the birds, of the beautiful
dark seas they push through.

It is not a wide range of space that matters,
but what each part means to the whole, to the human soul.
Blackwater Pond is life ― dross, infinite, random.

Tell me what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Stilled in each moment noting connections in this palette of the varied.

Luminous as it is with mystery
and pain.

Not human society but permutations of God:
marsh lily, gull, the Truro bear.

There is only one question:
how to love this world?

Moments one knows what it is to be alive
fully and willing to live fully in the moment.

Morning by singular morning
and shell by broken shell.

By Marc Frazier
Italicized lines are from Mary Oliver.

sun shining through forest trees


Marc Frazier has widely published poetry in journals including The Spoon River Poetry Review, ACM, Good Men Project, f(r)iction, The Gay and Lesbian Review (forthcoming), Slant, Permafrost, Plainsongs, and Poet Lore. He has had memoir from his book WITHOUT published in Gravel, The Good Men Project, decomP, Autre Cobalt Magazine and Evening Street Review and Punctuate (forthcoming). He is the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Award for poetry and has been featured on Verse Daily. His book The Way Here and his two chapbooks are available on Amazon as well as his second full-length collection titled Each Thing Touches (Glass Lyre Press) that has garnered numerous favorable reviews. His website is www.marcfrazier.org.

Photo by the author.

Dove Chorale

A chorus of mourning doves
serenades passing motorists
along the shaded gravel road.
Their coos are comforting,
and I slow down to listen.
They welcome all who pass
and soothe them
into autumn splendor.

By Harding Stedler

mourning dove in tree lit by autumn sunset


After graduating valedictorian of his high school graduating class, Harding Stedler went on to earn his B.S. in Ed., M.S in English Education, and his Ph.D. in English Education as well. He taught writing courses under the umbrella of the English Department in universities where he taught. In 1995, he retired from Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio, with 34 years of service. He now makes his home in Maumelle, Arkansas, and is an active member of the Poets’ Roundtable of Arkansas as well as the River Market Poets in Little Rock.

Photo by blscooch

Firefly: Light My Way

I find solace in observing my natural surroundings in my front and back yard. My house is surrounded by vast fields with many trees, plants and wildlife. I even see wildlife and other sights that most city-dwellers don’t tend to see such as coyotes, deer and even simple starry nights. All things that I love most about living in a more rural environment.

Like most people, I enjoy warm summer nights with nothing but the stars and sweet sound of crickets chirping, yet I can’t help but find myself waiting for just one month in particular. In late May, early June, as the sun sets and the skies turn black, the fields are lit up with the soft glimmer of fireflies. They dance to the song of the crickets and cicadas and mimic the sweet glow of the stars above.

 real fireflies at a calm nightAs I listen to the sweet sounds of summer and watch the dance of the fireflies, I begin to feel nostalgic. The mere site of these fireflies bring me back to my childhood where everything was so simple. Where my life was filled with wonder and awe. Where I was ignorant to the cruelty and hate in the world. For how could such cruelty exist in a world so beautiful and pure?

I can recall a memory of mine that allowed me to feel an extreme sense of connectedness with the nature found in my own front yard. It was the night following a catastrophic event where I sat, lonely and confused on the stairs of my porch. I remember peering into the dark fields feeling comatose wondering how the world could be so callous. The world lay silent with the exception of the forlorn whispers of the crickets. Their ballad complimented the tear drops that lay atop the freshly cut grass. I remember a faint smell of firewood burning in the distance that could only be detected when the gentle breeze caressed my face. I gazed up into the night sky that was as black as a raven’s coat. I sat, staring up into the sky while recalling old memories of a departed friend. I wished so desperately to be able to capture the large, orange-tinted full moon and feel the warmth of the surrounding stars on my skin.

As the night progressed, the breeze became more apparent and the temperature dropped as low as my spirits. I began to look back to the fields at the tall arundo donax and golden rod that surround the perimeter of the field. The shadow of the feather-like appearance on the top of the cane’s stem complimented the soft silhouette of the golden rod’s florets. They swayed back and forth in conjunction with the breeze’s rhythm. Their leaves rustling in the wind as they brush up against each other so carefree and effortlessly. Like a mother shushing her crying infant as if to console it; as if to console me.

I am brought back to reality when I feel a gentle touch of a glowing object on my skin. I gaze at its body as it turns from a simple black insect to an alluring shade of fluorescent yellow. The firefly’s glow is like a bright, yet subtle star that flickers in the night sky. At that moment, I couldn’t help but think that the firefly was reminding me to appreciate the simple, natural splendors that this world has to offer. After a few seconds the firefly took flight and rejoined the others within the fields once again. Subsequently, I went to bed pondering my encounter with this gentle creature.
sunrise over fieldThe following morning, I awoke to the tune of a new song. It was around 5:30 am when I turned my head towards the window to see a small beam of light peeking through my window shades. The sky was beginning to transition from a dreary night to a new day. At that moment I remembered the firefly that reminded to me to enjoy the simple things in life. So although I was still mourning, I decided to take the firefly’s advice and venture back to the spot where I had laid so dejectedly the night before.

I sat with a plush blanket around my body like a tight-knit cocoon on the steps of my porch. I watched as the sun pushed through the darkness and out from the fields below. The base of the sky just above the fields was a light periwinkle that extended up and faded into the deep purple and blue sky. There were also some purple-grey clouds that looked like cotton balls that had been pulled apart and fluffed. The large, dark orange sun emerged from the horizon with its golden rays extending throughout the fields. As its rays stretched, the field began to light up and glow as bright as the firefly. The golden rod that was once just a silhouette became a vibrant yellow with a contrasting green base. The leaves and each floret were now distinguishable with a perfect balance of long, thin, green leaves to clusters of small, complex yellow flowers. Each plant beginning to look as though they had a halo of light radiating from its core.

As the remainder of the field began to turn from a dark green shadow to many different shades of greens, purples, browns and white were now able to be seen—as though a veil had been lifted. Bright purple thistle, Queen Anne’s lace, large tufts of grass, small maple trees and milkweed that were previously hidden became apparent with the glow of the sun—now fully over the horizon but still low in the sky. With the sun’s transition, the sky became a light shade of purple and blue with the sun a bright yellow.
sparrow on grren branch
The light then reflected off of the subtle drops of dew on the grass as if it were a blanket of light laid upon each blade. The sound of the crickets no longer sounded disheartened. They were loud and filled with various tones and patterns, countered by the sweet melody of the sparrow and her children. Her whistle provided sound to the beauty of the sun and nature around me. As I watched her fly to her nest made of tan coloured, dried grass and twigs, I got a glimpse of her body. Her body was a light brown with delicate hints of dark browns, blacks, whites and orange-browns within her back feathers. As she glided her way towards her nest, she was greeted by her children who had been anxiously awaiting her arrival.

At this moment, the world felt like it was in perfect harmony. A unity between every living creature and radiance of the sun. I started to feel a sense of love and admiration, whereas the night before, I felt lifeless and disconnected from the world around me. I now feel calm and connected. Connected to the sparrow providing her children with nutrients and warmth, to the thistles that are vibrant yet sharp to the touch and even to the sky that had become brighter with each passing moment.

As more time passed, I began to recall the moment where the firefly landed on my hand. The firefly showed me that even in dark times, a small glimmer of light can help you through it. Because behind a dark sheath, there lies a beautiful world full of numerous sounds, colours, textures and scents—all working together as a single entity. This moment of realization has now become one of the most memorable times of my life. As I grew older, I started to lose touch with the nature that surrounded me. I became so consumed in a world full of social media and work that I forgot the simple, natural beauty of the earth. But I have since regained my connection to environment and all living and nonliving things in it.

I continue to find peace and serenity in the fields surrounding my home. Not only is the land around me striking, but it also fills me with joy and nostalgia. I love to reminisce and share my childhood memories and other major events that have happened in my life with nature’s melodies playing in the background—whether it be crickets chirping, coyotes howling, birds singing or even the rustling of leaves. Every piece of nature with a distinctive colour, shape, size and smell all come together and create this safe haven for me.

I will always remember and return to the spot where I have seen the most amazing natural marvels that are so dear to my heart. As for the fireflies; they will return next year and I will be looking forward to their long awaited arrival. Though here for such a short period of time, I find myself most connected to them each and every year.

I would like to say thank you to the firefly that was the light to one of my darkest days and for helping me, once again, find beauty within nature. Thank you for helping me regain my connection with the world and most of all, thank you for helping me find myself.


Photos by Fernando Gregory Milan, Sitthipong Inthason, and Grzegorz Gust