First, a funny story about squirrels: I recently took a “What’s My Spirit Animal Quiz?” and the result was, you guessed it, the mighty squirrel… That is about as close as I come to nature.
I am not much of a tree hugger. I do not get excited about hiking, hiking long distances and encountering animals in nature—I think the closest I usually come to wildlife are squirrels. My idea of nature is the walking paths in Central Park and the Great Lawn, which are obviously not that impressive. So on a quest to find a place to be in nature that felt safe and comfortable to me, I chose the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG). For those who have never been to the Bronx, this park is one of the nicest in the borough. Close to Fordham University and the Bronx Zoo, it is a train ride away and once you have entered the gates you will feel like you have left the city, and your worries, far behind.
I didn’t quite understand before what people meant when they said they felt happy while walking in grass, among trees and shrubbery. I always believed they meant something superficial, as in, nature was “pretty” and therefore made them feel happy because psychologically, beauty has a calming effect on people. While the research may be on faces, I believe most people would agree with my hypothesis. There is however a different happiness felt in nature that’s much deeper. It doesn’t come to everyone and maybe not on their first trip out. Most people might be too preoccupied to have this kind of revelation, but I definitely noticed in my time walking and enjoying the landscape that, even with so many preoccupations surfacing in my mind, I was able to turn them all off and have a great time in nature without my inner voice and obnoxious external noises bothering me.
The day I went out on my walk I was lucky enough that it was not too cold and the sun was out with only a few clouds in the sky. This is not a necessity to understand and appreciate the beauty and value in nature, but in my case, it definitely helped to put me in the right frame of mind. I was not annoyed by the task to spend some time in nature; in fact, I did not want to leave. The deciding factor in me leaving the park was the darkening sky thar reminded me of Emerson’s Nature when he says, “For, nature is not always tricked in holiday attire, but the same scene which yesterday breathed perfume and glittered as for the frolic of the nymphs, is overspread with melancholy today. Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.” (Emerson 217) Darkening skies have a lot of metaphorical meaning so they could refer to any trouble facing your daily life. I would agree that if I was not in the mood to feel joy in nature, I would not have had such a good experience.
I’m not too sure if my relationship with nature will change overnight, but I am now aware of how much value there is to nature on a spiritual level. It is not just a place to take pictures of the changing colors of leaves-although, of course, sometimes that cannot be helped, but enjoying the special quiet noise of birds in trees and leaves rustling is a sweet sound I could easily be surrounded by for the rest of my life.
All photos are my own.
Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1836