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The Environment as Educator

Jul 31, 2020 03:48PM ● By Gisele M. Siebold
“Nature speaks to us in analogies and subtitles, reflecting back to us the life happening within our own being,” believes Amethyst Retreat Center community council member Annie Kurtyka. “We can translate flowing waters to our fluid emotions, or a stoic oak to our patience and strength. Swarming gnats are like a repetitive thought, and poison ivy can highlight what’s irritating us in our lives. The environment is our compass, our healer, our provider, our teacher.”

 

Wendy Jochems, co-owner of Hope Hill Lavender Farm, says, “I am a hiker, gardener, horseback rider; I love nature and have a soft spot for its beauty. I completed the master gardener program with Penn State Extension in 2016, and my five-minute presentation [there] was on the benefits of nature. I believe the environment is here to educate and heal us. If we listen and observe nature’s beauty, we can learn to slow down. I learned that in many cultures, nature is regarded as a form of medicine—that trees and flowers can influence psychological well-being.” 

 

During her research process, Jochems discovered that in 1979, Roger Ulrich examined the influence of nature scenes on stressed students. Nature scenes increased positive feelings, playfulness, friendliness and elation, but urban scenes cultivated sadness. Ulrich also discovered that seeing natural landscapes increased levels of serotonin, which helps to regulate attention, behavior and body temperature.

 

“Long before we decided to create our farm, I realized the calm that being outdoors brought me personally, and enjoy sharing its peace with others. We often have visitors from cities, and are impressed with how they want to get back to nature to heal the stressors of everyday life. As a certified Pennsylvania pollinator-friendly garden, we enjoy paying it forward to nature. Our landscape is beautiful if we work to keep it that way,” encourages Jochems. “That way nature will always be there for us.”

 

Earthbound Artisan team member Samantha Curran shares, “The most significant lesson nature can teach us, I think, is patience. Our environment does not hurry; it does not rush and become overwhelmed; it merely grows, feeds, dies and rebirths all on its own, and in its own time. Everything has its purpose and duty. The flowers bloom in spring and summer so the birds and the bees can pollinate and feed. Then fall and winter come, and we watch the beauty of life fade while the plants and trees shed their leaves and coat the ground to provide a natural compost so when spring comes, new life can flourish.

 

“I think we, as humans, tend to forget just to let things be. Have faith that your journey and the universe will be pleasant to you, and always try not to stress over what you cannot change. As people, we can take for granted the simple lessons and beauty our environment can teach us, such as patience and growth. We need to remind ourselves to slow down and remember it is okay to be a human ‘being’, not a human ‘doing’.”

 

“As above, so below. The wisdom of the cosmos can be found in the diversity of the soil or in the dynamic patterns of a species,” says Kurtyka. “Through interacting either by observation or recreation, we become aware of the give-and-take relationship we have with Earth, opening our eyes to the phenomenal symbiosis of all living creatures. She nurtures and grounds us while expanding our senses so we can perceive life fully, yet humbly. Gardening, kayaking, orchard care, birdwatching, camping, hiking, etc., enable us to tune into the fascinating rhythms of this living planet, which we can embody and then share with one another, our family and neighbors with ease and care, for we are all connected.” 

 

Resources

 

Amethyst Retreat Center,44 Buffalo Creek Rd., Duncannon. AmethystRetreatCenter.org.

Earthbound Artisan (a garden and stonework construction company committed to the environment). EarthboundArtisan.com.

Hope Hill Lavender Farm, 2375 Panther Valley Rd., Pottsville. HopeHillLavenderFarm.com.








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