Embrace the Natural World this Summer

As adults, people remember three kinds of family events with great pleasure–meals, vacations and time outdoors . . . The natural world has great power to heal and restore broken families. Children need contact with the natural world. It’s an antidote to advertising and gives them a different perspective on the universe.
-Mary Pipher, The Shelter of Each Other

I was reminded of Mary Pipher’s words while hiking last week in the high desert of southeastern Utah. Southern Utah, home of five national parks and several state parks and national monuments, is a playground of rugged mountains, deep canyons, ancient reefs left behind by retreating seas, sandstone rock formations that could fill a football stadium, and arches that have become iconic images of the American West. I could not imagine a vacation that would better fit Pipher’s words . . . except, perhaps, a trip to the ocean, the forest, or an alpine lake.

What does immersion in nature have to do with family values, as Pipher suggests? It reminds us that we are part of something greater than ourselves, something that gives our life meaning and purpose–which is to say, something deeply spiritual. Immersion in nature offers us experiences that allow us to see the world in its purest setting, unmarred by the world of technology and free from its polution.

We live in a world that has become so accustomed to the artificial that God’s nature has barely a chance to be noticed. Far too often, we default to theme parks and resort hotels for our family vacations. We’ve forgotten–if we’ve ever known–the haunting beauty of a deep forest or stark desert, the glory of the sun rising over the Atlantic or setting beyond the Pacific, the summer chill of high mountain air, the brilliance of the night sky, the sensorial joy of embracing a California redwood, the cool cleansing of river, lake, or ocean.

What it all comes down to is getting back to nature, getting back to the world as it is meant to be experienced. And with that comes healing–for ourselves and for our children.