Life has me looking for the silver lining this year with the upending mental stress of the quarantine lockdown, the uncertainty of re-engagement in an altered everyday routine, and the tremendous collective stress of societal change. Today’s reality doesn’t seem woven with any strands of metallic thread.
However, after much contemplation, I realize that perhaps there isn’t a silver lining at all, but instead a green one. I have always gravitated towards the outdoors and nature settings, but I believe, particularly now, that nature can play an important role for everyone, whether nature oriented or not. Nature can reduce stress and provide a calming influence during these turbulent times.
The health benefits of being in nature have been well documented. “Recent work in the fields of Psychology, Public Health, and Urban and Environmental Studies have shown a variety of physical and mental health benefits related to exposure to and interaction with outdoor green spaces.” (Bravender & Bravender, 2020).
Outdoor pursuits and gardening activities have increased during this time as other indoor entertainment avenues have been closed, and this resurgence provides multiple advantages to personal well being. Renewing the connection with the outdoors can also serve to increase the awe and wonder of the natural world which can foster the creation of an inner peace. Families have the opportunity to be and learn together in a green space, with children developing into nature enthusiasts and parents reconnecting with their childhood pursuits of exploring the forest or playing in the creek or pond.
Observation skills, curiosity, and other critical learning skills can be practiced in various outdoor settings, and the endless discovery of nature provides incentive for future inquiry and exploration. The Hike and On the Nature Trail are a fantastic pairing of books to introduce the excitement and joy of outdoor adventures. For gardening fun, both Bring me some Apples and Rainbow Stew are great for creating meals with your freshly picked garden vegetables. Children’s literature can provide a window to pique interest, or can just be a good story with wonderful illustrations.
The green lining I found is this back to nature movement - this rediscovery of how the wonder of nature makes us feel. The beauty and variety of birdsong, the gurgling streams or rushing rivers, and all of the other sounds of nature can supply a feeling of resilience and a greater calm. Exposure to fresh air and the physical exertion of outdoor activities produces the healing physicality that ensures a good night’s rest. Combined with a bountiful harvest of fresh garden produce, the outcome is promising on multiple levels.
I want to end this blog with a personal gardening story. This spring, during quarantine, we seeded 3 varieties of peas and planted kale transplants in our small home garden. The lines of baby green plants were beautiful and highlighted the growth progression from germination to frilly sprouts. And then one day all those pretty plants were just gone, nibbled right down to nothing! What a shock! Now, our garden is fenced, but also a few years old, so after investigating we found a couple of holes in the mesh. We made repairs and replanted, sure that despite our large rabbit and baby groundhog population we had blocked access to our precious plants. Our experience illustrates a key point of gardening which is that it is essentially an act of faith and optimism.
Perhaps the silver and green lining of the year 2020 is the awareness and reconnection with the green aspects of nature, whether that is rediscovering and integrating them as a missing aspect in our lives or seeking them out as a new and interesting way to engage in life. I believe the green lining holds the promise of hope for the future, and I am planting on that, in my garden and my personal life.
Bravender, T., & Bravender, L. S. (2020). Nature play: A prescription for healthier children. Contemporary Pediatrics (Montvale, N.J.), 37(3), 12-22.