Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Tag: nature

Walking For Fun, Health and Therapy

I was enjoying a pleasant walk, breathing in the lovely weather, smiling at the chubby little squirrels that swerved every which way when I saw a woman walking towards me. She was far away but I recognized her walk. It was my sister.

“What a nice coincidence,” we said to each other as we met in the middle of the road and started to walk together, stopping here and there to take pictures because, unfortunately, this was an unusual encounter.

For almost a decade, my sisters and I would get up every morning and walk for five miles, even in the freezing cold. Four of us were serious walkers, but sometimes the fifth sister accompanied us. Sometimes, my cousin came along. When it was snowing or raining, people would watch us from their windows and probably think we were crazy.

Our schedules caused us to stop this morning tradition. Now each sister walks as her schedule permits, but we all still walk outdoors. Although I sometimes do miss those group walks. For the most part, they were healthy – except when we would get into such heated disagreements that the whole neighborhood again thought we were crazy.

Despite that, a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan found that taking group nature walks is associated with a great deal of mental health benefits, including decreased depression, improved well-being and mental health, and lower perceived stress.

Sean Gobin is a veteran who founded Warrior Hike, a nonprofit outdoor therapy program that helps combat veterans’ transition by hiking the country’s national scenic trails. Gobin recently won an award for this program which has helped many veterans who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Walking outdoors is one of the many free and beneficial gifts available to us. When we use these gifts, we have a more powerful relationship with this earth, with ourselves and each other, and we’re less dependent on medications for healing.

The Clearing, a Magical School

Jens Jensen

A week ago I went with my sister to the Henry Ford Estate, to watch the documentary screening of Jens Jensen: The Living Green. We parked our car and to reach the house by foot, walked through a dense woodland area which was created by Jens Jenson, a Danish American landscape architect, known for his “prairie style” design work. He designed the gardens at the Henry Ford Estate and the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House.

I loved the character of this man, who considered himself an artist, not an architect. Jenson saw a connection between the performing arts and nature. He was called a Native Nature Poet. He summed up his philosophy by saying, “Every plant has fitness and must be placed in its proper surroundings so as to bring out tis full beauty. Therein lies the art of landscaping.” He believed that only when we leave the beauty of nature alone, as God created it, would we really have democracy.

At 75 years of age, Jensen, who wanted to create harmony between the hand of man and the hand of nature, established a school in 1935 called The Clearing in Ellison Bay, Wisconsin. It taught environmental citizenship and sought students Jenson thought would “study profoundly… do things worthwhile… not for oneself but for others.”

Jensen died in 1951, at the age of 91. But the school he founded is pretty alive. The Clearing offers year-long educational opportunities in three programs: the Summer program, the Workshop Program and the Winter Program. All programs offer a wide range of classes (which are taught in a relaxed and informal style), including painting, writing, quilting, birding, wood carving, poetry, rustic furniture making, photography, poetry, fine wood-working, music, weaving, philosophy, stained glass, metal work, nature study and paper arts.

Sounds like we have in our country more magical programs than Harry Potter ever did. The only thing is we need to discover them.

Bring the Rain Forest to Your School

Rain Forest

When I saw a brochure in my daughter’s folder with photos of exotic birds, snakes, monkeys and alligators, with the words live on stage I thought, “There has to be a catch. No way would an elementary school have a program as interesting as this brochure claims to be.”  But in case it was real, I was not going to take a chance of missing this show.

Well, the show was way beyond my expectations.  Not only was it entertaining, but it was educational and designed specifically for kindergarten through sixth grade.

“We do this because we believe if you see how beautiful and intelligent these animals are, then you will help the rain forest,” said the trainer.

The animals sure were intelligent. A McCaw flew over the crowd to grab a dollar from the hand of a volunteer audience member, and later returned it to his hand. A capuchin monkey drank from a Sippy cup. Kids got to get kissed by parrots. People got to pet alligators and take pictures with snakes. It was wonderful! Ninety minutes of pure lively entertainment and at half the cost of going to the movies.

When the time was up, the trainer said, “It’s getting late and you guys are just about ready to go home, right?”

“No!” the kids literally screamed.

It was great to see how creatively the trainers incorporated the live animals to deliver a powerful message.

“It’s really up to you and me and how we choose to live our lives that will save the rain forests,” he said. “So get involved! Because together we will make a difference!”

 

To bring the rainforest to your school, contact your school and tell them about this incredible show: http://www.therainforestlive.com/index.php/reference-letters   1-888-738-0398