Nature is the Best Medicine

Elizabeth Guertler Godfrey, a County kindergarten teacher 30 years, talks about why nature is such an important part of our health and our children's health.

by Elizabeth Guertler Godfrey

My father often led us on long rambles through trackless woods where we flopped down on mossy banks, watching ants lug seeds homeward. “Imagine how the world must look to them. This moss is probably like palm trees and we are giants.” He made the woods seem at once magical and steadfast, wondrous and familiar.

In A Sense of Wonder, Rachel Carson describes encouraging her young nephew to explore with his senses and to appreciate the wonders around him. Labels and facts aren’t nearly as important as direct personal experiences that mold our understanding of our place on the planet.

Richard Louv, the author of The Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle, diagnoses much of modern society with “nature-deficit disorder.” According to many studies, Louv says, a host of ailments from ADHD to depression may be traced to a disassociation from the natural world. He suggests even adults may be de-stressed and renewed by reconnecting with it. 

Wherever I live I find a “safe place,” some nearby green spot where I can go when troubles weigh too heavily, someplace to sit quietly and regain my balance. Looking up through tall oaks which have observed a century of changes or gazing into a stream continually flowing toward the sea keeps life in perspective.

When I taught school, my classes took nature walks every week. Even the most intractable children seemed comforted once we left the pavement behind. There is nothing like swinging on grapevines, wading in a cool creek or scrambling over rocks for ironing out emotional wrinkles and for tapping into the universe’s creativity. This summer, why not get out there and try it?


About the Author: Elizabeth Guertler Godfrey taught Kindergarten in Howard County Public Schools from 1976 to 2006. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Writing at Spalding University. Her essays have appeared in Smoky Mountain Living, Christian*New Age Quarterly and The Muse. She writes "On a Morning Walk",  a blog of observations gleaned from daily walks with her dog

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