Why "Vitamin N" Isn't a Luxury - It's Essential

I have to admit I wasn't much of a nature kid growing up.  I rode my bike and skated on the sidewalk and climbed trees and played tag, but I was not intrepid or athletic.  I didn't enjoy getting dirty, and I had no one to guide me toward an interest in the natural world.  My family didn't do much camping, as my mother didn't care for it, and my dad was busy working two jobs.  He was born and raised in the West Indies, and didn't know much about the flora and fauna, or even the stars, of the San Francisco Bay Area.  I liked trees and fog and flowers, but didn't know much about them.

My husband, however, grew up on nine acres of woods and pasture in rural Placer County, California.  He and his three brothers roamed the woods, raised cattle for 4H, and backpacked all over the Sierras with their dad, a professional geologist and avid amateur astronomer.

So Jon has taught middle school science for over 30 years, and has an informed interest in geology, astronomy, botany, birding, and several other areas.  Most of my knowledge of the natural world has come from him, and as I've learned and observed more it has increased my appreciation.

One thing I love to do in nature, especially when away from crowds of people or sounds of vehicles, is to walk or sit in silence, simply looking, listening, smelling, and feeling the woods or mountains or ocean or wherever I am.  I don't need or want any man-made input or entertainment.  Nature itself is compelling enough.

A growing body of scientific research indicates that time spent in nature 

  • relieves anxiety and depression
  • helps prevent or reduce obesity
  • boosts the immune system
  • improves social bonding 
  • reduces violent behavior
  • inspires creativity
  • strengthens the ideals of conservation.  

That's an amazing list of benefits that we should all want to enjoy.

But there's a problem.

We live in a world that is becoming increasingly mechanized.

Machines don't need anything green, but we do.  In an urban setting, parks, gardens, and other green spaces aren't just nice amenities, they aren't luxuries, they are necessities.  Rooftop gardens, window planters, and street trees are essential for sanity and humanity in cities.  More organic, multi-crop farms bordered by hedges and streams and wooded areas are essential.  And preserving the wild spaces we have left is also essential.

It is minimalist to have an interest in conservation, to spend quiet time outdoors, and to teach your children to be curious about and nurturing toward our planet – not just the spectacular wonders on so many people's bucket lists, but the small corners of green everywhere around us.  We don't have to travel far to spend time in nature.

When reminiscing about childhood memories, people seldom mention the best day they spent watching TV or playing a video game.  What they do recall, if they're lucky enough to have had such experiences with their families, are camping trips, hikes, hours spent playing in a tree house, the time it snowed on the beach in Mendocino (true story), rafting down a river, catching fireflies, or watching a meteor shower from Grandpa's pasture.  

Give your children memories like this, and make them for yourself.  Take regular doses of "Vitamin N."


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