Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not teach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life. -Herman Hesse-
For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver. -Martin Luther-
When I was a child, my home was often a scary place, and I sought refuge outdoors. The sky, the fields, water, the trees all brought comfort to me. As I got older, I spent more and more time outside. I really don’t know the person I would be today if I hadn’t had the sanctuary of nature, especially trees. They brought me peace. It’s often been said that God speaks to us and comes to us in the form of other people, and I think that’s true, but I also believe He comes to us and speaks to us through nature.
I have so much gratitude for those wild places I was able to escape to. Even now when I have a problem that needs solving or a lot of stress in my life, I head outside to walk where the colors of the trees, the earth, and the sky bring calmness, peace, and, often, the answers I’ve been seeking. I know not everyone is as inclined to do this as I am, but the benefits are there for everyone. It’s been shown that the color green is calming and relieves eye strain, and that being in nature decreases levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers have found that people experienced more deaths from heart disease and respiratory disease when they lived in areas where trees had disappeared. I know trees produce oxygen, reduce smog, and act as a natural air conditioner, but they must also have an effect on our immune systems.
Often it wasn’t enough for me to just walk out in nature – I had to actually become a part of it. I climbed every tree I could, and this photograph shows me sitting in one of my very favorites – a large weeping willow tree near my home when I was growing up. I played a lot of games with the neighborhood kids around this tree, and I climbed it whenever I could. It had large branches just made for using as a seat to watch the world go by.
When their lives aren’t overloaded and screen times are limited, children, I believe, will just naturally gravitate to the outdoors. Let them. Let them in all kinds of weather. Let them even when they will get dirty, grass-stained, and possibly scraped or bruised. Monitor them, but let them feel as free as possible. I don’t think my mother ever questioned me about all the time I spent outside or made me feel odd for doing so, and I’m thankful for that. And I’m thankful for all those big and wonderful trees that have been there for me when I needed them the most.