Thank you, followers of Foto Diarist, for your thoughtful and kind comments over my first twenty posts. May your holidays be merry and bright, and may we all retain our sense of proportion, humor and serenity as we contemplate what 2016 might bring.
What we hope it will not bring are more terrible acts of violence. While there are many questions about how to respond, and there is too much anxiety-producing rhetoric, I refocus and step away from worry by turning to the great outdoors, where I find much to celebrate. It is more than a distraction to take a walk in the woods. It is time devoted to reconnecting as human beings to the basic things that keep us alive: vegetation, clean air, soil, and creatures that contribute innumerable services benefitting the ecosystem. Our senses tune quickly to the good feeling of exercise, the quality of light, the plants’ habits, the bird calls, and the rich aromas of flowering trees and decomposing leaves under a changing sky.
As the owner of a nature reserve that is open to the public, I can tell you that the difference in demeanors of the visitors arriving and the visitors departing after a few hours is quite pronounced. As people emerge from their cars, they often look stressed, and not everyone in the group, especially young people, look convinced that a visit to a park is such a great idea. After they spend time in gardens, orchards, and forests, meander lakeside, and enjoy a meal together with a splendid view, all the people, upon exiting, are talking and laughing–literally closer together physically–and eager to share the good news with me about what they saw and how much they enjoyed themselves. Spending time in a natural setting is clearly inexpensive therapy in a stressful world.
I believe respect for nature is the answer to many of the problems that we face today. However, even getting people to focus on our connections to the natural world is a huge challenge. No matter where we live, or how concerned we are about the health of the planet, we should at least be gladdened and relieved that a consensus outcome of the Paris climate talks is respect for forests: aggressive implementation of protections for the world’s beleaguered remaining forests is but one of the major commitments made by all the participating countries.
For those of us fortunate enough to have ready access to wilderness or even a fine urban park, we can give thanks, especially at this time of the year, for that proximity that so many don’t enjoy. How felicitous, on a quiet walk, alone or with our loved ones, to find just peace. Fear about the future can be mitigated by feelings of connection to each other and to our earth.
As the year comes to a close, the traditional colors of the holidays have inspired me to present twelve image gifts, one for each month, in green and red.