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Nature as Healer

Escape to the Outdoors

Photography by Bev Russick

By Kay Owen

Are you stressed? Worried about COVID-19? Concerned about your kids going back to school? Frantic thinking about loved ones becoming infected? Not sure what to do or even who to believe? Wondering if we will ever back to normal?

Many questions. Lots of uncertainty. And, so much stress!!!!!! So, what to do?

Turn to Nature

Yes, it is just that simple. And, it is within reach...every day! Just step outside and breathe. Lose yourself in the natural wonders of the great outdoors. After a walk outdoors, Edwin Way Teale, a great naturalist, describes it this way:

I return with tautness gone, with delight in simple things heightened, with a sense of health and sanity and well-being. I feel more calm, more capable. For many of us a return to the out-of-doors is more than a pleasure; it is a basic need essential to physical, psychological, and emotional welfare.

In Armstrong County, we are blessed with many outdoor spaces and much natural beauty. You don’t have to go far or go to exotic places to reap the healing benefits of nature. Take a walk in Kittanning's Riverfront Park or the Ford City Park; travel to Crooked Creek Park; or walk along the Armstrong Trail. Visit Mahoning Dam or Putneyville Park by Mahoning Creek.

Or, simply go out into your back yard. Just get outside! It is worth the effort. And, you are worth it!

Tune Out to Tune In

Leave your phone at home, turn it off or at least silence it. Choose a place in nature that is inviting and calming to you. Sit there silently for 10 to 20 minutes. Just experience the place. Get a sense of your surroundings -- use all of your senses. What do you see, hear, smell, and feel?

As we enter the Fall season, this is a particularly beautiful time of the year. Look for the changing colors of the foliage. Smell the scents of autumn. Enjoy the changes in temperature. Fall has a distinctive sense about it, don’t you think?

Recently, I went with a couple friends on a kayak trip up the Mahoning Creek. Oh, how restful that was! The smooth water calmed our souls. We came to a spot where there were riffles in the creek. We docked our kayaks and climbed out on the side of the creek.

We decided to build a cairn out of river rocks. What fun that was! And a beautiful dragonfly landed on the rock in front of us. That was amazing. The dragonfly rested there for a while as though assessing us and wondering what we were doing. Such a simple thing that brought us great joy.

While on a walk the other day, my husband and I noticed a salamander. It was dark in color and nearly blended into the surroundings. We paused to take a photo. What a marvel of nature! Right there at our feet.

On a recent trip to Crooked Creek, a friend and I observed so many great blue herons. What great fishermen they are!!!

In order to see these creatures, we had to slow down and open our eyes. And we were able to appreciate the beauty of nature. In return, we were nourished and revitalized.

Lessons from Nature

I sometimes play a game with myself when I am outside. I choose something to fix my gaze upon and then I ask it “what lesson do you have to teach me?” Here is an example.

I was watching leaves fall to the ground. One meandered on its way and one went right at it and fell quickly. The lesson I took from that is there is a time and place in living to wander and meander and a time to get straight to the goal.

Here is another example. I sat on my patio listening to a wren sing her loud and beautiful song. It dawned on me that the wren sings that song whether someone hears it or not. She sings because it is her song. My lesson is that I need to speak my truth whether people hear me or not.

Isn’t this a great activity? I highly recommend it.

Come to the Woods & Rest

Come to the woods, for here is rest.

There is no repose like that of the green deep woods.

--John Muir

I am restored in beauty. I am restored in beauty. I am restored in beauty.

-- Navajo prayer

So, do yourself a favor and get outside. Let nature do her healing work.

Kay Owen floating

Kay Detrick Owen, in her working days, was the Executive Director of ARC Manor Addiction Recovery Center; Project Coordinator for HEALTHY  Armstrong; and, Development Director for the YMCA.  Since retirement, Kay is a hospice volunteer and Co-Chair of the Outreach Committee at Grace Presbyterian Church.  For fun, Kay hikes, kayaks and bicycles. 

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