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Friday, March 10, 2017

Antidote to Anxiety


I’m like a lot of people of a certain age who are bewildered that young adults and kids spend hours glued to their digital devices.  I’ll confess that I check my e-mail umpteen times a day and stay overlong on Facebook.  But a book review for The Nature Fix: Way Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative in the New York Times delivered an ah-ha moment. 

Author Florence Williams avows that “we suffer from an epidemic dislocation from the outdoors…  The more nature, the better you feel.”  As little as 15 minutes spent in the woods weekly can reduce the stress hormone, she reports.  Spend 45 minutes a week outdoors and most people improve their cognitive performance.  And, in England, studies show that exposure to green spaces reduces mental health disparities.  

Reviewer Jason Marks of the Sierra Club magazine said, “Maybe what we get out of nature is…a connection to the larger community of life.” 

Literary Rx for Stress
I thumbed through my 1942 copy of Tree in the Trail and remembered the long trips I took as a kid through the Rockies, the Southwest desert, the endless Plains.  Holling’s careful thumbnail drawings of arrow heads reminded me of the collections I used to have, and how I wondered who had carved those delicate points for shooting small game.  My 1935 copy of The Book of Indians brought back memories of Oregon’s sea lions, endless meals of salmon Dad brought back from Vancouver Island, and totem poles in Seattle and Vancouver. 

This was integral to my childhood, but then, I didn’t have a cell phone or a digital device on which to play games.  Instead, my world had no endings when I was growing up in an Oregon farming and logging town.  Only beginnings.  Fields and groves were endlessly green, the Columbia and Willamette flowed forever, and country roads led to new adventures.  Life was a page of Dylan Thomas’s poetry.   

The Past Is Still Alive and Can Revive You
I confessed I stay overlong on Facebook, but this is where I saw a page from the Leslie Area Historical Society and Museum.  I haven’t been to that part of Michigan, but a note I put up about wanting to see their Holling collection brought a great comment from Andrew Campbell.   

He returned to his hometown, Leslie, a few decades ago and said We went into my kindergarten room, which had originally been an outbuilding behind the Congregational Church, a part of the set, I guess, also with a couple of real brick buildings there: the church, Jupp Funeral Home and…next to the church, maybe a parsonage.  Not only the entire physical building was there, just as it was when I was a student, except that it had been built into the church.  We entered through the Congregational Church.  I tentatively count it as the high point of my life for  ‘all the good things in life’: games!, sand box! lunch! band (I think in Leslie I/we had band every year of school!) nap!...  The odor and ambiance was just as I remembered it!!  I have always wished someone had taken me in there without telling me where we were for ultimate proof of what I say.” 

I know my new friend is also a fan of Holling.  Leslie, Mich., was Holling’s home town too.  Holling drew on the past again and again to create his books of history and naturalism and anthropology.  Getting outside of those handheld devices is a prescription for getting us back in touch with a real world.  Even if you spend just 15 minutes a week walking through a park or the woods. 

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