"I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree."
So begins one of the most famous American poems and the “one poem known by practically everybody” says literary critic Guy Davenport. Written by Joyce Kilmer in 1913, I remember that it was the first poem that I memorized. Some interpret Kilmer’s poem to say that no art conceived on purpose could rival what Nature has provided for us, for free. I am inclined to agree.
I have just returned from my semi-annual trip to South Carolina; where I find my “happy place.” Right now the leaves and the woods are radiant with color, pinecones and sticks crunch under my feet and my sense of health and well-being is magnified as I walk with no apparent purpose or destination in mind. I try to make little noise but I can't fool the flock of turkeys who thought they had the woods to themselves. Startled, they moved into the pine thicket before I could even count them. What it is it that makes you feel so good walking in the woods? Is it the smell of pine, damp leaves or simply the combination of allowing Nature to calm and quiet your thoughts? We talk about the benefit of being outdoors as much as possible for the kids we teach and it is often a hard sell for kids and parents alike. Complaints like "it's too hot. It’s too cold, I am afraid of bugs. My shoes are getting dirty," abound. There is even a word for an aversion to Nature; biophobia.
Well, all those biophobics owe a debt of gratitude to a scientist named Rev. Edward Stone, who in 1763 began to research willow trees, the bark of which has been used in medicine since ancient times. That paved the way for the discovery of acetylsalicylic acid, better known by the name it got 100 years later by the Bayer pharmaceutical company – Aspirin. Today, Americans take more than 80 million doses of aspirin each year. Think of all the lives that have been saved, for so many, all because Rev. Stone was walking through a swamp of willow trees!
Researchers in the East Asia assert that walking through a forest has a positive effect on your health, lowering blood pressure and pulse rate, as well as relaxing your nervous system. I know that it definitely works for me and it is the reason I am so zealous about encouraging our students to love and learn from Nature. Soon, physicians may begin to prescribe a walk in the woods instead of or in addition to conventional medicine!
At Bright Futures Academy, we are always researching how Nature influences and can improve even our so-called “modern life”. We educate our students academically while giving them the tools to stay healthy for their life!
Now, pick yourself up, grab your family, and take a walk in the woods. Experience Nature as medicine!