Gardening for Life: Connecting with nature
By JOSE GERMAN
For Montclair Local
Jose German is an environmental activist, Essex County certified master gardener and Montclair resident. He is the founder of the Northeast Earth Coalition.
Are you looking for that special connection with nature? Albert Einstein said, “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
If you feel that there is something special that you are missing in your relationship with nature and want to deepen it, allow yourself to follow that light in your life journey. Open your mind and allow your creativity to come forward and guide you toward this special connection.
Often, when we go to a park for a walk or a jog, we do not look beyond the greenery of the landscape. When we do pay attention of the sights and sounds of nature around us, whether in our own backyard, a local pocket park, or a national forest, accidental discoveries occur and something different happens. Suddenly, you are aware of tree shapes and colors, the sound of branches moving with the wind, the singing of the birds, and the humming of insects, and you feel the peace and beauty of the place. You stop, take a deep breath, and observe your surroundings. You become aware of the presence of nature as a whole. Then you feel that a forest is not just a collection of trees and plants of different shapes and colors, and that the landscape is more than the sum of the plants, rocks, and creatures that make up the forest. You realize that all of these together are part of nature and you as well are an essential part of the whole. You can call it Mother Nature, Earth Mother, God, or another name that is meaningful to you, but you feel it.
Our daily occupations and responsibilities often do not allow us to go further than this. We feel that we love nature and feel great when we are in a natural environment, but we do not know how to connect with nature in an intentional way. We live in a culture that keeps us away from spiritual and meaningful connections with our environment. Nobody will encourage you to go deeper in your relationship with nature; it is your own call. We all should look for that kind of experience to feel the special connection with nature.
I spent last week in the Green Mountains in Vermont and had the opportunity to experience a deeper connection with nature while hiking in the wild forest, a connection that helped me to heal in many ways and cope with the recent loss of my elder brother. I felt, more than ever before, that I consciously connected with Mother Nature, and that connection became part of my spiritual path. That empty feeling in our chests we all have was filled by that experience. I learned that we are part of the whole universe and that we are never truly alone. My heart was filled with a deep joy that I have not experienced before.
In a previous article, I wrote about how our connection to nature is as old as our existence. Many people are not fully conscious of that connection, but as soon as we take a walk through a park or a hike through the mountains, we feel different. We feel relaxed and find solace from the world around us. For thousands of years, humans have developed this special bond with the natural world. In the course of our evolution, we have tried to domesticate nature in many ways, from agriculture to horticulture to gardening. But the feeling of the mysterious power of wilderness still impresses and challenges us. Frank Lloyd Wright advised, “Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.”
Most of us live in urban environments, and that means living with a shortage of open space. We have planted trees on our streets and created urban parks. We have also found solace and enjoyment by creating around our own homes artificial oases as a way to keep our natural and instinctive connection with nature. Although access to quality time outside is hard to come by, there are a few good reasons to make the great outdoors an essential part of our daily life.
Philosophers, scientists, naturalists and authors have documented the many benefits of spending time in the outdoors. Henry David Thoreau celebrated nature’s therapeutic effects saying, “I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.”
There are many studies confirming that direct contact with nature improves mental health and increases spiritual and psychological development. Among the benefits are stress reduction and the feeling of belonging to a greater community. Nature has long been recognized for its relaxing qualities as a place for humans to find tranquility and healing.
Nature is a system that provides a sense of structure, interconnectivity, coherence, and reliability for those wise enough to see it as a model for life. Let’s internalize that we are an essential component of this structure.
Recreating nature around our home is a savvy way to develop that special bond with our environment. As a Boy Scout in my childhood, I wanted to leave the world better than I found it and give future generations something to really live for. My love and appreciation for nature has evolved over the years, as well as my respect for the environment and the creatures with whom we share this planet.
Let’s make gardening a meaningful activity, full of purpose to support life in many ways. Let’s be connected and inspired by nature. Surround yourself and your family with trees, bushes, and flowers that will cheer you every day. Creating a harmonious and holistic garden at home will bring a family together in a very rewarding way. Go out and get inspiration from the master gardener of the universe: Mother Nature!