Too often, when people think about spending time in the great outdoors, they think of one of the well known national parks such as the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone. Others will daydream of an African safari or a Patagonia journey. For those who are lucky enough to live near or afford to go to such places on a regular basis, enjoy your blessing to the fullest.
The rest of us need not feel cursed. The Psalter teach that “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness there of” (Psalms 24:1). Wherever there is a place that God owns, we can find his presence there. This point is also made in the first of the Trisagion prayers, “Oh Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth who are in all places and fills all things.” While the Appalachians or Denali are places of great majesty, the presence of the holy can be found in one’s municipal park and back yard.
The Stanford University Study comparing a walk in a natural versus urbanized area didn’t take place in extreme, far-flung locations. One subject walked in a wooded lot near the campus while the other strolled along a busy thoroughfare also near the school. Also, the person in the natural area was not engaged in rock climbing, white-water kayaking, or some other extreme activity. She was taking a walk. A road trip and camping excursion to the upper Missouri River sounds terrific. But, to make a home in the natural world, it is impractical unnecessary.
Start with where you are and where you can go most often. The frequency and amount of time spent is up to you. Urban gardens may not offer miles of hiking. But, they are useful to sit and collect one’s thoughts and say a prayer. When you have found that special local place, make it yours . Take a few photos as the seasons change. Keep a journal dedicated to your place to jot down thoughts, poems, or even try a sketch or two. Get involved with a group that beautifies and protects it.
Your outdoor healing place may never be listed as one of the 7 wonders of the world. It doesn’t matter. As long as you walk away from it better than you were when you walked into it, nothing else matters.