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Stephanie Hill: What can yielding of nature teach us?

April 26, 2018

“I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.” —Henry David Thoreau

“EASY: Embrace, Accept, Surrender, Yield” — Light Watkins

“I just haven’t felt right for weeks now,” stated one young lady.

“Really?” questioned a woman who appeared to be her mom.

“I haven’t been sleeping well either,” added the younger.

“Good grief, I just can’t get it together lately,” another female shared moments later.

“It’s like my thoughts are as disorganized as the weather; and, with finals coming up...”

I was in a gathering room filled with women of all ages taking in bits and pieces of conversations. Expansive windows covered one of the walls with an open door leading to a deck. Trees surrounded the deck; and through the trunks, I could make out the curves and dips of the mountainside that forms the campus of Bethany College.

My mom and I had made the four-hour drive earlier that day to attend a “Strong Women” appreciation event at my daughter, Maddie’s, sorority, Alpha Xi Delta. The day before our drive had been a beautifully golden, sunny spring day with temperatures in the 70s and abundant, brilliantly blue skies. However, overnight clouds had moved into both the Tri-State and

Bethany, West Virginia areas. Still, the temperatures were hovering in the mid-60s, and the sky was filled with the milky light of clouds - a far cry better than the snowy, cold weather of a few days prior.

After the event the skies were noticeably darker as I dropped my mom off at my daughter’s dorm and parked the car in a lot a short distance away. In the less than three minutes it took me to park, the weather shifted gears. Gusts of wind whipped and stirred the natural debris. Brown leaves, bits of trash, mulch, and other matter seemed to momentarily rise and swirl; then came the downpour, or should I say, side-pour as the strong airstream directed the rain sideways.

Even with my umbrella, I became chillingly soaked hiking uphill to Maddie’s dorm.

Ugh! This weather!

Entering my daughter’s dorm room, I walked into a conversation.

“Snow and cold for the next few days.”

“I’m just gonna stay in bed.”

“I can’t deal with this and classes, too...”

Wait, what? Looking at the weather app on my phone, the same weather pattern was true for home - though without predictions for snow. Good grief. And, yet, I could not help but feel there was a lesson to be learned.

During winter/cold months, we often spend more time inside than out. Additionally, days, and even weeks, can go by without much, if any, sunlight. Therefore, many people experience SAD, or seasonal affective disorder.

According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD symptoms often begin in late fall or early winter, but in some cases, appear in spring. Symptoms may include sluggishness, feeling tired/agitated, difficulty with memory or concentrating, problems sleeping- either too little or too much, overeating/weight gain, feeling depressed, and so forth. Hmm, this certainly reflected the comments I had overheard - not only at Bethany, but also at work lately. Sadly (Oh my, pun not intended), however, the one activity that might reduce or moderate those symptoms is often

avoided due to the weather - spending time in nature.

I often find time spent either outside, or at the very least, viewing nature through a window, to be quite beneficial to my mental and emotional well-being. Additionally, natural pictures and/or objects such as seashells, flowers, or plants can also serve as pick-me-ups.

However, it took me years to make this connection.

One observation I noticed in my daughter’s quad dorm room was that there were few windows, and what windows it did possess were covered, allowing no natural light to pass.

Personally, I cannot tolerate this for long periods of time. I need the natural light provided by windows - even if it is cloudy outside. Still, I cannot criticize my daughter - I did the same thing in college - which, coincidentally, was the first time I also experienced severe depression, which was most likely SAD.

Reflecting on this notion later inspired me to wonder if spending time in or viewing nature could truly alleviate, or at the very least, ease symptoms of SAD by teaching the concept of EASY: embrace, accept, surrender and yield . This is actually an acronym taught by meditation teacher, Light Watkins, as a method for meditating. However, when I read about EASY one week after visiting my daughter, I instantly connected it to the benefits of spending time with nature as a form of meditation, and on went the proverbial light bulb in my head.

The natural world embraces and accepts events as they come. As we drove home from Bethany, the snow and rain alternated, coating the daffodils, tulips, and newly greened grass. The trees bent with the wind while the creeks and swollen streams swiftly rushed over rocks and embankments. It appeared as if nature were gently sighing in the acceptance.

In fact, it felt as if Mother Nature had surrendered to the fact that chaos was a naturalpart of life. And despite the chaos, gifts would ultimately be yielded. The stirred-up stream will be enriched with new nutrients to support current and new aquatic life; newly tilled garden soil will be filled with ample moisture to nurture soon-to-be planted spring seedlings; grasses and trees will flourish; and more flowers will soon bloom.

We are not infinite, nor are we in control as the natural world models. But it is worth noticing that in the natural world: chaos leads to calm; darkness leads to light; rain leads to growth; cold leads to warmth; extremeness leads to moderation; and eventually, winter gives way to spring.

Let us open the blinds to the natural world, embracing and accepting its lessons, surrendering to events as they come; and maybe, just maybe, this will yield a more peaceful heart and mind.

Stephanie Hill is a freelance writer and a teacher at St. Joseph Catholic School in Huntington. She is also a lifelong resident of Lawrence County. She can be reached at hill992@zoominternet.net. Or you can check out her website, stephsimply.com.