What is nature?

I have a hard time working out for less than 30 minutes. If I got for a run, it has to be at least 3 miles long so that it will take about 30 minutes. The idea of working out for a shorter duration of time—even if it’s extremely tough—feels wrong to me. Even knowing the benefits of shorter, faster, harder exercise, I struggle with feeling that unless I can get that full half-hour increment of time, I shouldn’t bother. That it somehow doesn’t count as a real workout, that I’m cheating.

I think this is how we tend to think about nature.

If I ask you to think about “nature”, what comes to mind? Is it a big vista of a glacial lake framed by mountains and big sky? A forest of ancient trees covered in only slightly less ancient, billowing moss? Lions on the Serengeti?

When you think of nature, what comes to mind?
When you think of nature, what comes to mind?

Or do you think of something a bit closer to home? The last botanical garden, arboretum, zoo, or nature preserve that you visited? A waterside trail in your neighborhood?

It’s likely that your picture of nature was somewhere “out there” in a place that’s outside of your everyday experience.

Nature is different, isn’t it? The natural things that are part of our every day experience—landscape flowers, the birds in the street trees (and the trees themselves), the wayward spider that found its way inside—they somehow don’t seem to “count” as nature in the same way. Often we see nature as something big, outside, other, and forget that it’s all around us.

In The Nature Principle, Richard Louv defines nature this way:

Human beings exist in nature anywhere they experience meaningful kinship with other species.

If we can think this way, we allow ourselves to experience a much more expansive set of nature experiences. Rather than waiting for the special trip, the epic hike, or whatever equivalent of the 30-minute workout to be a big enough, we can find nature almost anywhere. In this way, shuttling the spider outside, enjoying the feel of grass underfoot, enjoying the beauty of a potted orchid all become a different type of interaction with the world around us.

This is wonderful because nature provides so many benefits to our health and wellness, and we don’t have to venture far to get them.

What’s your nearby nature?

Everyday nature is, well, everywhere!
Everyday nature is, well, everywhere!
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5 thoughts on “What is nature?

  1. I live smack, dab, in the middle of Wichita, Kansas, over thirty years in an 106 year old house. My neighbor, so thoughtfully reminded me that we were in the midst of “nature.” Even though we live in the inner city, a block away from a major highway, surrounded by yet, more highly trafficked roads. He said, “look at all the trees, and surrounding greenery.” He was absolutely right. I don’t have to go searching for nature, because I was enveloped in its beauty!

  2. When I read your blogs I sense the pressure of the world you live in. I am not saying it is bad, but the rushing about between meetings and destinations takes me back to the world I once lived in and I can feel my stomach tighten up. We learn to adjust to our surroundings during our daily routine and forget what real peace and tranquility felt like. I hope you find nature where ever you go.

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