Saturday, July 16, 2016

border between wild

border between wild
and tame, honeybee harvesting
wild carrot nectar

On today's walk, as I pass a colony of wild carrot I spot a honeybee crawling over one of the large white "lace doilies." She's probably a worker from one of my neighbor's hives. Even though she looks like a wild insect, she goes home to a box, so she's slightly domesticated. The Queen Anne's lace, on the other hand, is thoroughly wild. Although beautiful, it doesn't make a good cut flower and its invasive habits make it less desirable as a cultivator. But here the two are, happily coexisting, the wild and the (slightly) tame. The honeybee will just as willingly pollinate my fruit trees and berry bushes as the wild flowers that abound around here.

I come home to my box, full of windows. The whole south side is an expanse of glass that fills my eyes with green as I sit at the table, enjoying a dish of peaches from last year's harvest. Opening the mail, I leaf through Time magazine, trying to avoid the pictures of suffering.

What's this? Stuck in the middle of the world's craziness, an article on the healing power of nature (Alexandra Sifferlin, Time, July 25, 2016, pp. 24-26). Studies done by Japanese scientists have proved that the practice of shinrin-yoku, "forest bathing," lowered the stress hormone cortisol. The beneficial effects of spending time outdoors are probably due to a number of factors: fresh air, effortless attention, mood elevation, feelings of awe and a natural tree fragrance called phytoncides that lowers blood pressure and increases the number of white blood cells that support the immune system. Even looking out the window at green trees has a healing effect.

Reading this makes me reflect, as I do every day, on how fortunate I am to live in the midst of nature. Our house is surrounded by a little strip of overgrown permaculture garden, a small mowed clearing around the sheds and cars, and then the woods. Even when I walk to the mailbox on the gravel road, I pass along a corridor lined with a generous margin of wildflowers and then the wild woods that stretches for acres, full of trees, bushes, more wildflowers, a wandering creek and lots of wildlife, including deer, fox, wild turkeys. if I go into town, a ten minute drive, the blacktop is bordered by deep ditches filled with wildflowers and copses of trees between the cultivated fields. In town, the streets are lined with trees, each house has a green lawn and parks are interspersed between the houses.  

I grew up in the older suburbs of several big cities, so we always had a yard, a garden, fruit trees, once, a creek at the end of a dead-end street, once, a whole lake across the street. Vacations were always to a location with even more nature -- Big Springs and the Johnson Shut-ins in the Missouri Ozarks, Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, nearly every national park.

I realize not everyone can live in the country. If they did, there would be no country. So I am happy that most people live in cities. My wish for them is more urban green spaces, whether it's a tree-lined avenue, a park on an abandoned rail line or a garden in an empty lot. And I pray that we will always preserve our national parks and wilderness areas, where as many people as possible can come for forest bathing.

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