How Spending Time in Nature Can Connect Us with Our Deepest Emotions After 60
There’s a tract of wooded land not far from my son’s old high school. I find it simply magical. Right on the edge of the suburbs, it offers deep forest, limestone cliffs, ferns, moss, lichen and forest creatures.
It’s large enough so you no longer hear the hum of leaf blowers, lawn mowers and all the background noise of suburban life. And it’s large enough to get lost.
Once, I had to phone my husband at work to ask him to look at the map online and guide me back to my car. I’ve been going there for years, in every season, which says a lot in upstate New York.
At one time, when I was meditating, a great horned owl flew over to watch. If forest spirits exist, they congregate here.
Two years ago, the owner shut it down. He had let the locals use it for as long as anyone could remember as it couldn’t be developed because of the limestone cliffs.
But times had changed. Rumor was that he had a gun-carrying relative patrolling the premises. There were new bright neon signs everywhere, warning that there would be consequences for trespassing.
I felt like I had lost a dear friend. Sure, there were other nature trails, but none was like this one. Not with the velvety mosses hanging off the limestone cliffs, and the variety of bird song. Nothing came close.
Part of Me
I had so much history here. Parts of my life were embedded in the landscape. I came when I was raw and needed comfort, as well as when I was happy and just wanted to trot through the woods, my Jack Russell charging in front.
It was always here for me, just like a dear friend. It was reliably spectacular and offered a reprieve from living in a world that felt more and more broken. It was the balm for my frayed spirit.
An Unexpected Gift
I can’t remember how I first heard that the land had been purchased by a local land trust and was open again. The depth of my happiness is hard to put in words.
Yes, I feel a certain delight in finding a beautiful accessory at TJ Maxx, particularly if it’s on the clearance rack. But this was cell deep.
I had a relationship with these woods. I knew where all the trails split, where the cliffs jutted out, ferns springing out of the cracks. The old stone walls. The silence. It was a home to me. I had sat under tree limbs waiting out a rain storm, picked my way over icy boulders. Felt protected from fierce winter wind.
I returned to the woods this morning. I felt the anticipation of meeting a dear, old friend at the airport. There was dog strangle vine everywhere due to lack of use. And many more chipmunks than years ago.
The waterfalls were just a trickle. It was an emotional reunion with these woods that have meant so much to me over the years.
Author Florence Williams shows why our brains and spirits love nature. I’ve experienced the benefits she so artfully describes. She talks about some of the surprising science in my interview with her on my podcast, Zestful Aging.
It all makes sense. But there’s also something intangible. I can only describe it as love… and I feel blessed that the feeling stays with me after I have visited these woods.
Do you love spending time in nature? Do you have a favorite place in nature that fills your heart with joy and love? Please share all about it in the comments below!
Nicole Christina, LCSW, is a psychotherapist, podcaster and presenter. She leads an online course based on the Harvard Study of Aging. Her podcast, Zestful Aging, focuses on mature women and the metamorphosis they undergo. She enjoys talking about aging with sass and class, playing tennis, and romping with her dogs.