Well, I am biased, as indicated by the fact that I live in a 4 bedroom house with my family but currently am sleeping with my partner in our pop up tent-camper in the backyard (thanks to a rock, paper, scissors win over our 14 year old).
My mother tells stories from my childhood that mention finding me at the bottom of our driveway in Miami, rolling around in puddles; stories of walking around the neighborhood “saving worms” that were flushed out to the streets after heavy rains; stories of finding me resting at the base of a tree in the backyard, lost in the interweaving of the branches above me. So for me, the answer to “why nature?” is easy. Maybe what I am really trying to explore is, "why nature, for you?" Why have we chosen, 25 years into our careers, to do all we can to encourage others to get into nature?
I can direct you to books, such as Eva M. Selhub and Alan C. Logan’s Your Brain on Nature:The Science of Nature’s Influence on Your Health, Happiness and Vitality or to Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods. I can guide you to the library of science behind the Japanese practice that we call “Forest bathing” (start HERE) and you can check out the APA article “Nurtured by Nature” HERE). The bottom line is, if you have not heard by now that getting outside is good for your health, well, we are here to sing it from the rooftops.
Having read more than a handful on the subject, and sneaking nature into almost every module in the course that I taught at the MSW program at Arizona State University, I can tell you that the studies all agree that there are clear, measurable effects on your physiology from just holding dirt in your bare hands.
But what speaks more loudly than that to me, is watching the experience happen for folks who chose to unplug and get outside with us for a few days and nights on the river, in the San Juans or in Puget Sound. Stress subsides, laughter comes more easily, pride is felt from folks who have never camped before (or not since their childhoods) and the conversation opens to depths that they have felt desperate to get to.
They talk about “being a slave to the ding”, to social media, to always being immediately available, expecting others to be as well; some folks, in the calls leading up to our trips, talk about being worried about not being connected, not just because of their children but because they just haven’t been for decades.
So, why is it important to me to get people out in nature? So that they can disconnect from the day-to-day, connect with nature, experience their senses in a new way, reconnect with themselves and then, ideally, remember the experience in the months and years that follow. If I can encourage even one person a year to carve out time weekly in nature, a walk in the park, or work in a raised garden bed at home for example, then I feel content about the role I have played.
Hilary Moses, LCSW is co-owner of Rooted Connections Retreats as well as of Solutions Parenting Support. Hilary and Kelly Weld, through Rooted Connections, partner with Breakwater Expeditions to offer nature based retreats for adults and families.