Vitamin N


Are you getting enough Nature?

Recently a friend told me that when she visits a natural area, she feels at odds, like she doesn’t know what she is supposed to do. At first I was surprised, but actually, I think a lot of people feel that way. If you didn’t grow up as a “free range child”, playing outside and forming those early, deep connections to the natural world, you might think nature is too strange or complicated, or maybe just plain boring. And, our modern culture doesn’t favor quiet, solitary pursuits like simply being in nature. There isn’t enough adrenaline, competition, or money in it. After all, an afternoon in nature is free and easy, and anyone can do it.

Hardly sounds American.

But, being in nature is extremely good for you. There are all kinds of studies that show that nature relieves stress and improves health, probably in much the same way that meditation does.

The next time you visit a natural area, try approaching it a little differently. Let your focus drift outward. Breathe deeply, focusing on what you see around you. It doesn’t matter if you know anything about the landscape, the habitat or ecology, or plants and animals. Knowledge does not matter. You are part of nature…just observe without trying to understand. Part of the fun is discovering new things, new mysteries.



Walk slowly, or best of all, try sitting still and quiet for a few moments.

Watch. Listen. Notice.

Life is everywhere. Before long, you’re likely to see movements or hear sounds that you hadn’t noticed at first. Shhhh…  do you hear birdsong, insects buzzing, the wind in the trees? Are there scurrying or rustling noises, maybe indistinct shapes moving about in the trees or the underbrush?

If you’re patient, wildlife will probably show up eventually. If they do, stay still and quiet, and watch what they do. Give them plenty of space—it’s important to not scare animals, but it is wonderful to be treated to their presence.

You might be surprised how good it makes you feel.

The world is working, and you are a part of it.



I did this watercolor illustration for an interpretive sign project for Idaho Power Company.




5 thoughts on “Vitamin N

  1. “Walk slowly, or best of all, try sitting still and quiet for a few moments.”— you are so right, and even more than few moments will allow nature some extra time to reveal herself.

  2. Such a wonderful post…. I tend to forget that, as you relate, not everyone feels as connected. And as you so beautifully say — you don’t *have* to know anything, or everything, about your surroundings.

    Just be!

    • Yes, after all, those of us who were lucky enough to have had childhoods spent in nature, learned to love being outside just for the fun of it. I suppose once we are adults, it’s harder to experience things in that same, fresh, open way. But not impossible, I don’t think!

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