On Nature, and Healing After Loss


In some of my earliest memories, I am riding in the car with my dad while we sail past flat Louisiana canefields on the way to my grandmother’s house. I so often wished then the car would stop and I could get out. I imagined racing across the brilliant green fields, following the trail of a dark bayou, watching the mysterious lives of all the wild things as they trundled through swampy brush. I imagined that I, too, was wild. That in my deepest heart, I belonged to the woods, to the waterways, the animals, the wide skies, the mysterious hidden places.

Nature has always been a place where I could find peace. Where, if I sat still long enough, the busy tangle of everyday thoughts and worries and pressures would begin to slip apart, and I could come to something truer, deeper, more kin to my real self. As I watched a fish slip through brown water, or waited while a dragonfly nymph opened her first wings, I felt welcomed, comfortable, “home.”

It is no surprise to me that, when the love room experience was unfolding, it was nestled within the context of the natural world. In the midst of intense grief, I needed to walk. Whether there was rain, or snow, or ice; even if it was hot, or muggy, or brutally cold, I had to be outdoors. I can’t say how many times I hunkered down on a patch of icy snow at a nearby pond while sleety rain ticked on my jacket sleeves.

In the midst of the life-rupture of loss, wild places were a kind of haven where sorrow could seep out of my very skin. Nothing I could feel was too much, too dangerous, too absurd. I could sit on the side of the pond and come apart while a heron hunkered in the rain next to me, lifting one gigantic, sooty wing, poking her sharp beak through feathers as she groomed. Life was happening. The heron trusted her life. I could, somehow, trust my own.

I wonder if Nature has played a part in healing from great loss for any of you –

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