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A Dose of Nature

            A research team at the University of Exeter, one of the top 150 worldwide universities and a public research university in England, examined the benefits of spending time in parks and woodlands and at the beach. The results were the same across all demographic groups – men, women, young, old – among the 20,000 people interviewed.  Those who spent at least two hours a week in nature reported better health and more satisfaction with their lives.  The two hours can be spread across the week and several outings.

A recent article headline in The Week magazine caught my eye:  A Weekly Dose of Nature.  The first sentence validates my need to be outdoors:  For an easy and pleasant way to boost your health and well-being, spend a couple of hours a week in nature.

            Last week I took three young Grands to Cane Creek Park.  As we watched the ducks waddle and the geese gliding on the water, I soaked in the beauty.  Greenish-blue water.  Green banks across the lake.  Browns and grays on tree trunks.  Blue-green and lime colored leaves.

            “Look at the reflection of the trees in the water,” I said.  My Grands nodded and one said, “We see it, Gran. You told us that last time.”  And I’ll tell them next time. 

            I really wanted to walk the park path and cut through a few places in the woods, but my Grands had their eyes, their thoughts, on the playground so they jumped, ran, flipped, swung, climbed, and slid.  I stayed close by and watching them, and I watched the clouds and treetops. Big, white cumulus clouds drifted across the clear sky and over the tops of trees.

            Micah, age 5, noticed me looking up and said, “What’d you looking at, Gran?  Are you looking at that tall tree?  What kind is it?”  A giant cedar tree, an evergreen, loomed close.  His older sister said, “It’s EVER GREEN. Get it?  It stays green all the time.” 

            Anyone who knows me, knows I love trees.  Forty years ago Husband and I bought our first home here in Cookeville, and I called my mom.  Later she laughed at my description.  “It’s got a grassy backyard for the kids to play and then trees.  There’s a fallen tree for climbing and we can just go outside and be in the woods,” I had said. Mom said she asked me about the house, but I didn’t describe it with as much enthusiasm. 

            Sometimes I feel exactly as Micah did when he was 4 years old and visited overnight with Husband and me.  The morning was gray, cold, and damp and my Grand played inside.  He had built skyscrapers with blocks, played with cars and Legos.  He stood looking out the back door and I asked, “Micah, do you need a snack?”

            He turned toward me and said, “Gran, I need to play outside!”

            I don’t need a university study to know being outside improves my physical and mental health.  But now I think, “I’m going for a dose of nature.”  It’s good for body and soul.

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