I had the luxury and good fortune to grow up in a small town. I lived near awe-inspiring mountains, shimmering lakes, inviting woods, open fields, and under truly dark skies that were perfect for stargazing. I have no doubt whatsoever that my childhood surroundings shaped much of my life.
I work in Boston now, and I think a lot of people in my office find it a bit odd that I’m willing to have such a lengthy commute; it can take me over an hour each way. For me, it’s worth it. When I get home, it’s dark and quiet, and I can see the stars above. I often hear a barred owl off in the woods, or see deer in the woods out back. I’m so very lucky to live where I do. My husband and I traded certain things we would have liked in a house (new windows, an updated kitchen, and those sorts of things) for location, and it was worth it. Our 1970s home has a lot of work that needs to be done, but I think the value of natural beauty can’t be overrated—for many of us, it’s vital to our mental health and well-being!
What can you do if you live in a heavily urban area? I did for many years, and my advice is to check out your local parks. There may be more there than you think; a lot of cities and towns have hidden gems in their park systems. Nothing local? Try checking out the nearest state or national parks on a day off. Just a day, or even just a few hours, away from cars and noise can really recharge your internal batteries.
If you live or work in a suburb, you might even try just walking around your local streets. At a former job, I used to take walks at lunch time as often as I could, and was frequently rewarded by seeing this handsome fellow:
You never know what you might see!
I’m grateful that there are still so many places of natural beauty in this world, even in heavily populated areas and with the environmental risk factors that exist. I’m especially grateful for state and national parks, and I like to support them whenever I can. If you want to help your local parks, you might consider volunteering for a clean-up day. It feels great to help make a beautiful place even more stunning, and they’re usually a lot of fun, too! Do you have other ways you like to support natural spaces? I’d love to hear about them!
To find a national park near you, visit http://www.nps.gov/.