For the past several months, in support of two beloved family members, I have spent what feels like an eternity in three hospitals and their nightmarish emergency departments, multiple doctors’ …
For the past several months, in support of two beloved family members, I have spent what feels like an eternity in three hospitals and their nightmarish emergency departments, multiple doctors’ offices and labs, as well as at a skilled care facility. As a result, I feel very disconnected from the natural world—an essential source of well-being for me, as it is for many others.
These medical landscapes are fraught with overwhelmingly negative sensory impacts—wails of agony and despair, nerve-wracking beeps and alarms, nauseating odors, harsh fluorescent lights, rooms that are chilling or sweltering and dry stale air that can harbor unseen pathogens as we struggle to breathe behind masks.
The harried and overburdened healthcare workers do what they can to provide care in such soul-stripping settings. As the anxiety-provoking hours drag slowly by, I find myself longing for a simple walk in the woods, surrounded by the sounds and sights of the natural world—delicate birdsong, water music, gusting breezes and brilliant sunlight.
These same natural resources influenced the development of our nation’s national park system for their restorative qualities that in part helped to heal the ravaged bodies, minds and spirits of those returning from war.
In a heartening development reported by the Washington Post and NPR, a new program launched in Canada provides free annual passes to the country’s national parks to increase access to the health benefits found in nature.
Fortunately for us, our local unit of the national parks—the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River—can be enjoyed free of charge throughout the year. Make plans now to celebrate Park Prescription (ParkRx) Day on April 16 during National Park Week. Visit https://www.nps.gov/subjects/healthandsafety/park-rx.htm to learn more.
As for me, at this time outdoor adventures are limited and therefore to be cherished even more as I turn pen and lens to these unsettling indoor environments and experiences. In her UC Riverside commencement address in 1975, writer Joan Didion urged graduates to seize the moments that make up a life. “I’m just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture.” Good advice for the road ahead.
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