Arboretum News

An Opportunity to Embrace Nature

No matter what life brings our way, nature is always there to help us cope.

COVID-19 Update: The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum reopened in a limited capacity on Friday, May 1. As a key part of the University of Minnesota’s research and outreach missions, we have been working with University leadership on a phased approach to ensure visitor and employee safety as we welcome you back. Find updates and information here.

Jean Larson on her tractor at her family’s farm finds peace in troubling times.
Photo courtesy of Jean Larson.

By Jean Larson, manager of Nature-Based Therapeutic Services Program at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

“In the midst of every crisis lies great opportunity” -Albert Einstein

We are entering into another month of coronavirus pandemic, and I wonder if you feel a shift in focus to what is important — health, well being, family and friends? I hope so. There can be unexpected benefits to otherwise dark clouds.

I know this to be true because last year about this time I was zigzagging through a cancer diagnosis. Which now oddly feels like perfect training for what the world is facing with COVID-19: hidden illness, isolation, financial stress, unforeseen events, emotional reckoning with what I can/cannot control, surrendering to the nameless and embracing gratitude for what is here and now.

Most importantly though, my time with cancer helped me to rediscover how truly important it is to engage, explore and enrich life with nearby nature because it provides me with a sense of security, safety and refuge. I know this to be true as I sit and watch the sun rise and set, being reminded each time, no matter what life brings my way, nature is there day in and day out.

Larson’s cabin, surrounded by nature, is a source of refuge. Photo by Jean Larson.

Today, this seems particularly prescient as many of us stand in our backyard, or on a balcony, or at the edge of a closed park, and yearn for a sense of security. We can still feel it by looking at a tree, a warbler at a window feeder, a deer with ears raised alert, reminding us that we are not alone in the world and that life always finds a way. The value we place on nature is surging as is the research showing the value of a connection with nature to our human health and well being. We know from the scientific literature just seeing nature from a window can “reduce sympathetic nervous activity and increase parasympathetic activity, restore attention and promote healing from surgery.”

How exciting to know that by simply looking at nature, we can be restored! As the trauma of this pandemic continues even after the virus subsides, you can find nature is healing simply by paying attention to the life just outside the windows. Do not let COVID-19 fracture your relationship with nature, let it strengthen it in ways we never knew or took for granted. Use all of your senses to immerse in nature and carry this essential connection into the future. We have the opportunity to plant, persist and praise the wild in and around us.

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