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The restorative power of nature

I remembered something this morning that I’d read recently, some line, quote or excerpt that I can’t recall exactly. But at its heart was the notion that the earth is as much inside of us as we are all eventually part of it. We return to the dirt, soil and water when we die, but it is already in us while we are alive, too. It reminds me of Emerson’s words: “In the woods we are forever young.” It seems that there are many remedies in life that are fast fixes and usually temporary ones at that: things to help with depression, anxiety, insomnia or weight loss. These fixes don’t always work. They are not always dependable.

But there is one remedy for nearly all of life’s problems that works for me every time, and that is to go to the woods where again I am young.

Last evening I took a walk. I went to one of my favorite places. It is perched up high on a hill where you can see the ocean and the White Mountains. There are granite steps at the top, a fence and green grass on which to sit. This time of year, there is never anyone there while I am, which makes it all the more special.

I climbed last evening to this place that is high up on a hill, and I sat on the grass. I turned off my brain and the world and I looked up and around. Before me was the sunset, a canvas of pastels as the sun hovered in the west above the tree line, painted in colors that best described flowers — lavender, peony, daffodil and marigold. An ascending plane cut a path across the sky that looked as if it was pointed straight for the top of the world. The setting sun highlighted its jet stream and turned it first to cotton candy pink and then finally to silver.

Behind me, the nearly full moon rose through the trees with another kind of radiance. The moon had a different style than the sun: quiet, elegant, less wild and loud and messy. It was the April Pink Moon, named for the pink ground phlox that blooms this time of year as one of the first springtime flowers.

Overhead flew a flock of geese. The peepers hummed in the gathering shadows. A church tower in the village below sparkled white in the evening gloaming. All was still. The air was warm. My frantic heart was still for a moment while I sat cradled by the west and the east, between the sunset and the moonrise. I closed my eyes and gave my senses to the night; I tasted the sun’s orange light, the moon’s silver radiance. And I felt quieter, lighter. I felt as if the wind could pick me up and carry me anywhere.

By the time you read this, Earth Day will have come and gone. But that doesn’t matter. Make every day Earth Day. Go to nature when you are blue, when you are anxious and when you can’t sleep. Go to the woods, sky and sea, for they are already a part of you. Return to the soil; return the soil to you. While there is no way to restore your careless youth, in the woods, at least, you are young.

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