A trip to Big Bend National and State Parks has been on my bucket list, as well as my husband’s, for a long time. Last November we were finally able to get away from work to spend some time reconnecting with nature in this incredible place.
During our first day driving into the National park, we stopped to take a cheesy tourist photo at the entrance sign. As we pulled over, we noticed a lady who was also there taking the typical entrance sign photo. My husband the extrovert struck up a conversation with her, and she began telling us how she traveled to places all around the United States on her own. Apparently, her husband was a terrible traveler, so she didn’t invite him along anymore, and her kids were always busy, so she went on adventures without them. However, she said they were all very concerned about her traveling alone. Her reply to them was, “I am not alone, my God held out His hands, and said come with me, I want to show you My world”. As we stood there by that sign, she explained to us that all she needed was her car, a six-pack of Dr. Pepper and Little Debbies, and she can travel anywhere.
As we continued our adventures and exploration of Big Bend, we realized these spiritual values were woven throughout many of the various stories of those who shared with us. We met a bartender who was in the health care industry in California. One day he picked up his entire life to go live in this special desert town in-between the mountains and hills because of the spiritual connection he felt in this gem of the world. And there was the retired couple who sold everything, packed up and left their small town in east Texas to pursue their dreams of traveling the nation in their Airstream trailer, to live on their own schedule and time. They told us when they feel the special magic of whatever place they happen to be in, they stay for a while to soak in the spiritual benefits, and then move on. I love listening to stories like these; learning how people venture out to connect with nature, about their perceptions of the world, and how this leads to stewardship for the world they care about. These stories resonate with me.
Being there and hearing the stories of others visiting or living in this part of Texas reminded me of the many benefits that nature provides that can be hard to describe. According to BlueValue, using nature for symbolism or representation, or experiencing natural landscapes and seascapes, can enhance emotional, psychological, and cognitive wellbeing. In other words, ecosystems provide cultural, spiritual, and historic services and have significant value for many people. For example, oyster middens, burial sites, or ancestral lands can provide feelings of connection to the past, and to a person’s cultural heritage and spirituality.
Particularly in Big Bend, there is something special there that makes me feel like I am in another world, and away from all the realities of daily life. But these benefits are provided beyond this niche of the world. It can be watching the pelicans dive into the ocean while I walk along the nearby beach, visiting the farm where my horse boards, reading a book in a hammock in my backyard listening to the birds, or watching my dogs chase lizards. For me, this spiritual connection provides the ability to rest, reset, and refocus. Much like what the blog, “Grounded in nature” and “Salty souls” discussed, seeking out nature and natural spaces provides people health benefits, but also spiritual benefits as well, which can lead to environmental stewardship, a connection to your community, “greening your eyes” and essentially allowing productivity to flow.
How do you connect with nature? Where do you experience the spiritual benefits nature provides?