Nature Connection: Finding Joy In Nature In Difficult Times

by Mary Richardson
There’s always something to talk about out in nature. MARY RICHMOND PHOTO There’s always something to talk about out in nature. MARY RICHMOND PHOTO

The world is a mess. I find myself getting bogged down in this depressing thought a lot, and since I’m not generally a negative person it bothers me to feel what is often heading very close to despair. There’s climate change that corporations and governments are deliberately ignoring and debating while they allow the harmful ways that exacerbate it to continue. There’s the wholesale use of pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and all sorts of synthetics that threaten our health as well as the planet’s, again, ignored and even championed by the companies that profit from them. There’s the mess of wars and conflicts, human trafficking, crazy laws across the world that are attempting to put women back in the dark ages, and well, you can see how many dark places I can go, and that doesn’t begin to address personal sorrows.

The day of the eclipse my husband and I headed to the beach with our chairs, blankets, and eclipse glasses. We sat and watched people gather, laugh, and chat in anticipation. We smiled as children expressed wonder and delight. We noted the sparkle on the water even as the eclipse neared 90 percent. No, we didn’t get the mind-blowing totality that other areas experienced, but it was still a heartwarming, heart-expanding experience to join with hundreds of others to watch a natural event that was, after all, free of admission charge.

And that’s the thing about nature, and maybe why so many people tend to ignore it for bigger, flashier, more expensive things. After all, we’ve created a culture that worships money and what it can buy, forgetting that the best things in life really are free. There may be flash and music and crowds and moments of fun and happiness that money does indeed buy, but for me, a walk along a beach does more than just about anything I could invest in.

I think that finding joy in nature is actually an easy thing to do. All we have to do is get outside and take a look around, smell the air, listen for the sounds of wind, water, trees, insects, and birds. It’s very difficult to stay grumpy or sad when taking a walk in the woods on an early spring morning when the birds are singing, buds are fattening, and you catch sight of the first butterflies and bumblebees of the season.

As we come into this lovely time of year full of longer days and shorter nights, flowering trees and shrubs, birds singing, bees buzzing and spring peepers peeping, many of us are eager to be outdoors enjoying it all. Spring is the best time of year to find smiling people, especially if you see them outside.

If you need a shot of positivity, go visit a herring run. Take a kid or two or go when a school group is there because there’s nothing more fun than watching a bunch of children get excited about a whole lot of fish swimming upstream. If you’re there when the gulls are feasting it can get a little graphic, but there is a reason they’re called herring gulls, if you catch my drift. Yes, it’s sad for the fish, but it sure seems like a happy time for the gulls.

Walk away from the fray and find where the herons and egrets are hanging out. Ospreys will be on the hunt as well, and in many areas now you may find bald eagles joining the party. Watch for other birds along the pathways and see if you can spot an early dragonfly or two as the weather warms.

Even on the coldest days of winter there is joy to be found in nature. The landscape can be stunningly beautiful in its starkness, and if you’re lucky you may come across some deer or a coyote. Perhaps a red fox will hurry across a meadow, or a red-tailed hawk will soar overhead. On winter nights we can listen to the owls converse or simply enjoy the star show when it’s crisp and clear.

In fall the trees always put on a good show, and we may spy the painted turtles all lined up on a sunny log by our favorite pond. A slow moving box turtle or a striped garter snake may cross our paths and flocks of geese may honk and pass in V formations above our heads.

Summer is always a lush and busy time in nature. There are babies everywhere and the ruckus that follows the babies as they grow through their teen and young adult times. I’m always in awe of the ways nature provides for all but also how that provision often includes the sacrifice of some. There are flowers, fruits, nuts, and seeds for all but there are also allowances for the carnivores. Many species have offspring in large numbers to compensate for expected losses, something which can be hard for humans to see but which works in the circle of life in the wild.

I find comfort in the sanity of nature, for even when things seem a little out of whack it soon reverts to its regular routines. Even knowing that we are messing with nature’s timelines and resiliency I find hope in nature’s perseverance and adaptability.

It’s easy to find the joy in nature’s beauty. Sometimes it’s harder to witness the brutality, but even then, I have to admire the ways that is contained to specific circumstances. A shark kills a seal and eats it. It doesn’t commit mayhem and kill dozens of seals. I know there are exceptions to this, but they are rare in nature and often have very particular reasons and causes. They aren’t done for fun or recklessly.

After a long winter I am always happy to greet the spring. Bring on the ospreys and herring, the flowers and the baby rabbits that want to eat all the flowers. The nature show is ongoing and always free, and I, for one, am always ready for the joy it brings.