The fragile natural environment once needed our protection:
Now, wildlife and wild places provide the inspiration to go on


OCT. 23 2001 —
The horrifying events of recent days
have left our country with a heavy heart, not
knowing where to turn to relieve the pain. At
times like this, taking a moment to reconnect
with nature can provide a solace unmatched by
any man-made escape. Now, more than ever, we
need what Henry David Thoreau described as
“the tonic of wildness.”

         I STRONGLY BELIEVE we can feed our collective soul by stepping outside to hear the sound of water as it ripples down a creek bed or rushes against the shore, lifting our eyes to behold the serenity and stability of an aging tree, feeling the wind in our face, watching a butterfly flit from flower to flower. Immersion in nature’s wonders can be the best distraction from the reality of our pain. 
       I experienced this firsthand when I couldn’t take the reports of death and despair any longer and escaped to my yard in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains to observe over 400 broad-winged hawks amassing above my house. While I watched these graceful birds in flight, groups of monarch butterflies, riding the winds, joined the birds in their journey south, reminding me that the seasonal cycles of the natural world go on, undeterred by the havoc around them.
       Experiences like this aren’t just found in faraway wilderness areas or our national parks, they are right outside, in gardens, urban parks or that patch of green next to the schoolyard.

      Being reminded of the things in life that transcend human atrocities lifted my spirit, mended my heart, brought comfort to that which seemed inconsolable, and delivered the hope I needed to face the challenges ahead. The world is often harsh as the events of Sept. 11 and thereafter have proven. Spending time surrounded by nature can help soften the blow by delivering an inner peace, if only for a little while. John Muir aptly described the benefits derived from spending time with nature as a way to renew mental energy.


       For proof of nature’s healing power one need only read accounts of how Americans instinctively flocked to urban gardens, mountain overlooks, forested trails and ocean shores in the wake of the terrorist attacks, seeking refuge from an anguish that was all consuming. In those places they found the solace and spiritual renewal that only nature can bring. The novelist Wallace Stegner wrote that as human beings we need wild places available to us as a way of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures. Calling this sense of connection to the natural world part of the “geography of hope,” Stegner evoked the eternal rhythms of which we are all a part. 
       Exposure to the natural world has been shown to be therapeutic by alleviating stress and promoting health. The medical community has long known about the healing power of nature, which is why healing gardens are cropping up in medical centers across the country. Healthcare providers understand that flowers, trees and running water can create an oasis for those facing the trauma of a debilitating disease or the loss of a loved one.

       As Americans look for spiritual renewal, emotional healing, or time to reflect on how our country will rebound from this national tragedy, many are turning to Mother Nature. Wildlife and wild places — whether they are found in the mesas of the West, the grasslands of the Midwest, the Alleghenies or Adirondacks of the East, or the park down the street — are part of our strength as a nation, an indomitable part of our American heritage that is impervious to those who attempt to destroy our resolve. 


       Every time we set out seeds for birds we trust to return, watch in awe as salmon return to their birthplace to spawn, plant a garden, or gaze at the stunning beauty of monarch butterflies as they migrate as much as 2,000 miles every fall, we affirm our confidence in the future — for these are acts of faith, the same faith that empowers our country to rise anew in the wake of tragedy. 
       President Abraham Lincoln understood the power of that faith in the natural world, even in the midst of the Civil War, when in 1864 he granted the Mariposa Sequoia Grove and Yosemite Valley to the state of California for permanent protection; they are now all part of Yosemite National Park.

         We often focus on protecting wildlife and those natural places we love. Now those wild places can come to our rescue, giving us the strength and hope we need to face an uncertain future. There is comfort in knowing that the soothing sights and sounds of nature will always be there to embrace us, steering our nation toward whatever “normal” might mean for us in the months ahead. As events unfold, take the time to get outside and experience your own special place. Let nature’s healing hand lift up your heart and your spirit.

by Craig Tufts
chief naturalist for the National Wildlife Federation.

Visit the National Wildlife Federation website
by "left clicking" once over the logo below

click here to visit the National Wildlife Federation website!

A special "Thank You" to Craig Tufts and 
the National Wildlife Federation 
for permission to post this page

"Out in the Country"
by 3-Dog Night

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