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How Spending Time in Nature Can Connect Us with Our Deepest Emotions After 60

By Nicole Christina August 02, 2022 Mindset

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.

Big Loss

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.

This Morning

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!

Let's Have a Conversation!

The Author

Nicole Christina, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and the host of the acclaimed podcast ZestfulAging (http://bit.ly/ZestfulAgingPodcast), which is heard in 89 countries around the world. Find out more about Nicole at https://www.zestfulaging.com.

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Kelly

Where I grew up was surrounded by woods, there was a creek where we would fish or wade, trying to not slip on the smooth rocks! My parent have passed and the house sold, there are a few more houses than before but most of the woods and all my memories remain.

Living in Florida now, the natural surroundings are different and I love spending time watching the birds and other animals, but this girls heart will always belong to the forests of Georgia.

Sarah

My grandfather purchased acreage surrounding his home, sometimes at 25 cents per acre at tax sales, so his woods seemed to go on forever. He gave my parents land to build their home when they first married…next door to his home and surrounded by those woods. As a child, those woods were so magical! We were always safe there…didn’t have to worry about kidnappings or child molesters or anything bad…well, except for my older brother who would occasionally get a kick out of scaring my other brother and myself by hollaring, “Run! A bear!” We ran for sure, absolutely convinced we would be bear food, all the way home to safety. Of course, there never was a bear…just a big brother playing games. There was a small creek running through the woods which my grandfather dammed up and added a water wheel to be turned as the water spilled over the dam. This created a small pond which we kids waded in during the summer months and slipped around on playing ice skaters during the winter months. We collected pollywogs by the hundreds and watched as their tails dropped off and they turned into mini frogs before releasing them back into the water. There was a huge tree that had fallen over during a storm. Grandpa cut up the tree, but left the upturned stump and connected roots alone. We played all sorts of games with those tree stumps…my favorite was when we mentally turned it into a giant octopus that was out to swallow the world! As time went by, rain washed “tunnels” into the soil between the roots and provided hiding spots for us to store treasures. It was always fun, years later to find some of the treasures we’d hidden and forgotten about. We built treehouses. We laid on our bellies and watched rabbits and garter snakes traveling through the underbrush. We ate huckleberries and salmon berries and wild blackberries until our stomachs ached! There were a couple of hills in the woods, and from one of them, we could see a small pond. My mother was always afraid “something” bad would happen to one of us kids, so warned us to NEVER go over that hill and into the pond for fear of one of us drowning. Across the far side of the pond was a big rock ledge. As a Tarzan fan, I was convinced that rock ledge was the border to Africa (Though I lived in Washington State, USA). I swear I saw lions and elephants and once, even a giraffe wandering the hill over in “Africa”. I was convinced. “The woods” was part of me and remains so still. My husband’s sister now lives in my grandparents’ old house, so we visit the street I grew up on frequently. For about 45 years after I grew up, the woods remained untouched until about 2 years ago, somebody bought up the land and built condos on it. The woods is gone, but my memories remain. I don’t have a woods to visit now, but the memories are so strong in me I can return there whenever I want by closing my mind and visualizing it!

Gaili

Though I live in a big city (Los Angeles) I try to hike in parkland at least twice per week. I find it very calming and feel exhilarated afterwards. I rate the hikes by how many bunnies I saw that day. A 3-bunny hike is super!

Louise Barson

I spent a lot of time outside as a child, exploring nature in the fields and woods and streams near where I lived. I would even take a book out into a field to read in school holidays rather than sit and read indoors. I had much less spare time when I was working as I had a full on corporate career. But oh what a joy to return to spending lots of time outdoors now I am semi retired. We moved to a rural location in 2021 and when I’m not outside in nature; or observing it from our windows; I’m painting it or showing others how to paint it in my art studio. Nature really restores yoru energy and connection to the world around you

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