By Joshua Cummings
Me in Alaska, circa 2010
A walk in the woods is a great way to think about how degrading life can be. Essentially, it is an escape from the hustle and bustle of a normal day for most people living in the suburbs and city; going to school or work for the majority of the day takes a toll on the body because little time is left for the body to heal itself aside from weekends. I often think about how big and small our world really is as I walk through the forest; I know there are many critters surrounding me in burrows, underground, and up in the trees, making me seem like a giant to them. But compared to the rest of the universe, I am merely a speck of dust. These comparisons make me think about how much I appreciate the peace I find in the woods, because I know that I fit right in with the environment. Everything may seem smaller or bigger, but in the end, we are all specks of dust in a much vaster universe. Knowing that I am in an environment where I do not fear being judged or stressed from the modern world helps me feel at ease with myself when I am surrounded by beauty, and I believe that more people should take time out of their day to experience that feeling too.
I was exposed to the world’s beauty at a very young age. I don’t mean taking a walk in the park or hiking on a trail in the forest. When I was six years old, I traveled to Alaska to visit my uncle who lived there at the time. I encountered many different animals and biomes on my trip there, from the glacier filled pacific ocean to the vast forests along the coast. I saw many animals, including a moose that happened to be roaming my uncle’s suburban neighborhood. I think my experience with natural beauty at such a young age has allowed me to reconcile with what we have to appreciate on this very limited earth. One particular poem by Mary Oliver helps capture my sense of comfort in the woods:
How I go to the woods
Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single
friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore
I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds
or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of
praying, as you no doubt have yours.
Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit
on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds,
until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost
unhearable sound of the roses singing.
If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love
you very much.
I really enjoy this poem because I think it perfectly captures my mood when surrounded by the beauty of the environment. I feel at ease whenever I take a stroll by myself in the woods. I’m someone who drains their social battery very easily when interacting with others, and walking in the woods allows me to heal and recollect myself as a means of finding peace in my body. The breeze of the air, the rustling of the trees, the sounds of the birds and bugs all contribute to the sense of ease I feel within my special habitat. A scholarly article from PMC PubMed Central titled, “Associations between Nature Exposure and Health: A Review of the Evidence” states how exposure to natural environments, such as forests, are able to provide many benefits to the human body. For instance, studies have shown that being present in nature can decrease levels of stress, anxiety, and blood pressure, and improve cognitive function, emotions/mood, and overall mental wellbeing. In a world where millions of people are faced with hardships such as anxiety and stress, it is important for them to take time for themself and combat these negative feelings.
Because I was exposed to exuberant nature at a young age, I believe it is important for other children to immerse themselves in it as well. I believe my interactions in Alaska have shaped me into becoming more appreciative of the environment. An article from IFAS Extension at the University of Florida titled, “Why is Exposure to Nature Important in Early Childhood?” explains how a study was conducted on attitudes towards the environment between fourth and sixth graders in Germany concluded that the fourth graders maintained higher “pro-environmental attitudes than their older counterparts”. I believe that a youthful mind is easier to convince about the importance of the world’s nature and why it should be explored. Not only will they see how important it is to take care of it, but they will also appreciate the beauty and therapeutic comfort it brings when spent around.
Overall, I believe that observing nature, particularly by walking through the forest, would greatly improve the lives of millions. Everyone is trapped by modern society with millions of people surrounding them. They do not truly feel at ease by themself, which can prove very beneficial for the wellbeing of oneself and others. Not only will they feel better on the inside, but they will begin to appreciate the beauty of the world they live in.
Jimenez, Marcia P, et al. “Associations between Nature Exposure and Health: A Review of the Evidence.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, MDPI, 30 Apr. 2021, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8125471/.
Poppell, Kristen, and Martha C. Monroe. “Why Is Exposure to Nature Important in Early Childhood?” FOR326/FR394: Why Is Exposure to Nature Important in Early Childhood?, 1 Oct. 2017, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/FR394.