After a busy morning I stepped out into the yard and began walking slowly. I realized my chest was constricted and I could hardly breathe. I was unable to take a deep expansive breath. I wondered how that was even possible? I had not noticed it in the heat of the moment rushing to get my son ready and to school.
I just stopped and stood where I was in front of a strawberry tree and stroked one of her leaves as I tried to breathe. Her leaves are so soft, quite literally like velvet which also doesn’t seem possible. She appears so fragile and delicate and yet she is a hardy, robust and fast grower.
I stood there with my eyes closed listening to different birds singing and stroking one of her leaves until I finally simmered down into my breathing, my being and the yard.
I opened my eyes and began to notice so many new things. Our Simpson Stopper is blooming for the first time and it looks like one of our bananas is getting ready to fruit, also for the first time. I noticed a bee scouting a new hive I put out. I noticed a young red dragonfly at my feet.
One of the morning’s themes became the textures of leaves and flower petals as I stroked them as I would our cat. There was the velvety softness of the strawberry tree, the slick glide over banana and the delicate coolness of petals.
I noticed white and yellow everywhere and stars bursting in the landscape. Many of the flowers are so teeny teeny tiny. I scavenged unripe passion fruit strewn about by overexcited squirrels. Such is their nature…
Each experience brought me closer to a well of joy and greater calm within. You never know what will draw your attention or how deeply it will affect your inner life. You hardly need to venture far or move at all to experience so much awe and wonder.
In Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative, Florence Williams talks about the benefits of these moments. When we stop trying to mind the store and all its countless details, our brain slips into its default network. This default network is experienced during “daydreaming, mind wandering, goal setting” or the soft slow observance of our surroundings in nature.
This executive function brain break brings relief from the demands of modern life. It provides a mini-vacation from the hamster wheel of task-oriented behaviors and mental cartwheels. Our brains and bodies unravel as we step outside of ordinary consciousness in mindful mindless moments.
Williams found research supporting that a minimum of five hours a month in nature can have a beneficial effect on our well-being, providing emotional support to boost our mood and dissipate depressive feelings. She also noted that “researchers say they can prove that time in nature can make us less irritable, more sociable, less narcissistic, less distracted, and more cognitively nimble.”
Apparently, fifteen minutes lost among the flowers in my yard benefits us both. Nature needs our time and attention and as natural beings, we need time and attention in nature too.
Williams, Florence. (2017). The nature fix: Why nature makes us happier, healthier and more creative. W.W. Norton & Company.