As I was out walking early the other morning, a sense of joy and delight suddenly welled up within me as I watched the sun rise against the Sacramento River, fillisunriseky with beautiful splashes of color. I thanked God for the beauty of this world, and for eyes to be able to see it, and for a soul capable of enjoying it.
That experience got me thinking about what a wonderful thing it is for us to spend time in nature—and how much we miss in life if we don’t spend time in nature.
John Muir puts it this way: “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of autumn.”
In an article entitled, “The Moral Call of the Wild,” in the December 1, 2009 issue of Scientific American, P. Wesley Schultz writes,
“The benefits of spending time in nature have been well-documented. Psychological research has shown that natural experiences help to reduce stress, improve mood, and promote an overall increase in physical and psychological well-being. There is even evidence that hospital patients with a view of nature recover faster than do hospital patients without such a view. This line of research provides clear evidence that people are drawn to nature with good reason. It has restorative properties.
“But a recent article by researchers at the University of Rochester shows that experiences with nature can affect more than our mood. In a series of studies, Netta Weinstein, Andrew Przybylski, and Richard Ryan…show that exposure to nature can affect our priorities and alter what we think is important in life. In short, we become less self-focused and more other-focused. Our value priorities shift from personal gain, to a broader focus on community and connection with others….
“People living in the United States are spending much less time outdoors today than ever before. Data from a variety of sources show that on average, Americans are spending less time outdoors today than they did 30 or even 20 years ago.”
When we spend time in nature, we reap benefits of nature in our own lives. As Rachel Carson points out, “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
But when we do not spend time in nature, not only do we miss out personally on the benefits of nature, our community, our nation, and the world get shortchanged. As Luther Standing Bear (1868-1939) explained, “Man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard; [the Lakota] knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans too.”
No wonder God created such a beautiful world and set us in it with eyes capable of beholding the beauty and with a soul capable of being moved by it! ■
—Tom Tripp is the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Colusa.