Faces of Nature

One year ago yesterday, I caught my first fish on a fly. As you know, I have a great teacher, my son James, a fly fishing guide with Hubbard’s Lodge in Emigrant, Montana. We stayed in the home belonging to the Gignone family, owners of Sweetwater Fly Shop. This week the unyielding force of nature tore through Paradise Valley and northern Yellowstone National Park with record flows causing the Yellowstone River to literally erupt. Houses, bridges, and roads washed away, Yellowstone Park evacuated, and flooding at our favorite fly shop and Airbnb. 

James, Whitney, Boh and Aster are safe, but shaken. The main highway they travel is closed and they are looking for ways to bypass it. A fly fishing guide makes his living in these summer months and the Yellowstone will not be fishable for a while, not to mention the hazards that are now awaiting anglers in the river. I am thinking of James and all of his guide family, unmoored by nature’s power. 

I have spent the past few days in Bermuda, celebrating my sister-in-law Tracy’s 60th birthday. It was a wonderful and hilarious long weekend filled with family and good friends. An especially memorable trip to a spa inside a cave was had, but that is another story. I felt a deep sense of calm there which was most welcomed after ending another COVID academic year.

Bermuda is quite simply paradise, nature in its full glory, a beautiful tropical island filled with the sweet scent of freesia and Easter lilies. The ocean is crystal clear, bright aqua blue, with fine white and pink sand. Bermuda sits atop a long-extinct volcanic sea mountain 600 miles east of the Carolinas in a part of the North Atlantic Ocean known as the Sargasso Sea. Bermuda fish chowder and rum swizzles served al fresco were the order of the day. I did not want to leave.

I am now vacationing in Satellite Beach, FL. Yesterday, I woke to the sunrise over the ocean, with a school of dolphins playing nearby, seemingly welcoming me home. I joke that I go to the sea each summer to find my soul, but this year it is not a joke. It feels like a necessity. Numerous research studies highlight the benefits that exposure to the natural world has on health, reducing stress, and promoting well-being. And, while Kent School, itself, is an unparalleled natural environment for learning on the Chester River, being away at the ocean, and internalizing its strength, increases my relaxation, my ability to reflect, and my creativity. 

Richard Louv wrote Last Child in the Woods in 2005, and his book is largely credited with starting the movement to get children outdoors at home and school. He coined the term Nature Deficit Disorder. He noted that over 1,000 research studies point in one direction: “Nature is not only nice to have, but it’s a have-to-have for physical health and cognitive functioning.”

I agree. Nature is truly a force, yet that force has many faces, some destructive and some healing. I will be soaking up the latter at the beach, if you are looking for me.

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