Use Your Imagination to Celebrate Nature!

“Some night, go out from your home, which you know so well. Enormous space is there!”

Rumi

“It is a universal part of the human experience to stand outside at night, tip our heads back, and stare in wonder and awe at a night sky studded with thousands of twinkling lights.

“Unfortunately, unpolluted views of the cosmos are becoming increasingly rare. According to the New World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness, the Milky Way is hidden from ⅓ of humanity, including 80% of people living in North America.”

Here’s what I did last week: I saw stars for two evenings. We were staying at a hotel at the edge of Lake Powell, Utah.  The Milky Way greeted us after a short walk. It was like seeing an old friend! Let me tell you why.

When I was 15 years old, I was a student at Verde Valley school. Every night the Milky Way greeted me. The dark sky was always there at this boarding school in Sedona, Arizona, home of magnificent red rock scenery. Except when there was rain or snow where clouds covered the starry display. That’s when the headmaster’s house smelled of the pine and apple wood burning in his amply-built fireplace. And we’d sit around there drinking hot apple cider and talking philosophy.

During my first year at Verde Valley, I was transfixed. My sister and I came from Los Angeles. Lights had obliterated the “dark sky” almost entirely. Maybe Jupiter on a clear night. But that was about the extent of our experience of this breathtaking, immense darkness filled with bright, shimmering lights. After a few weeks, I took this phenomenal display for granted. It was there and would always be there. 

Fast forward fifty (I’ll be truthful: sixty) years. I’m lucky if I see Orion. Maybe occasionally, the Big Dipper where I live. However, that’s the extent of the brilliant universe available to me and almost everyone here in Sacramento.

Now, finding the “spirit of nature” takes some creative planning. Can you think about a spot in nature you’ve traveled to? Where did you go? How did you get there?

Chances are you gave it some thought and planning. For example, I planned this vacation to see the Milky Way about five months in advance. I chose a tour company I knew would provide a great experience. We went to Zion, the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and other equally exciting places where we’d be sure to see the dark sky.

Using the Imagination

Traveling home, I thought about ways to experience nature near our neighborhood.  Although we can’t recreate the expansive sky we experienced, I’d love to share some ideas with you. They are based on what I know about how our imagination works. Please try whatever seems the most “doable.” You don’t want this to seem like a chore. After all, the point is to enjoy nature by using our imagination. So, without further delay, here goes:

  1. Go on a “Mini Safari.” Look around your neighborhood for a patch of grass or a clump of trees. The size isn’t as important as what you’re going to do when you find this. Do you have a magnifying glass?  Take a moment and look closely at one or two leaves or a blade of grass. What do you see? Let yourself be amazed at the intricate patterns on a simple tree leaf. Or the complexity you find in the most petite flowers around. Take your time with this. We think of nature as NATURE, that is to say, something vast and impressive because of its great size. However, you can also find it in little places! I believe that’s why the mystics say that we can see the entire Universe in a grain of sand. 
  2. Research has demonstrated that our brains can easily visualize scenes from what we hear. There are many ways to do this if you go online and look at “nature apps” or other sources such as YouTube. For example, you can download sounds of the ocean, birdsong, the wind, and a rain shower.
    One thing that works is to cover your eyes after you’ve selected a specific sound. Sit comfortably, or lay back on an easy chair, and let your imagination run free!
  3.  Your sense of smell is another way to get in touch with nature.  Here in Sacramento, rosemary and lavender are easy to find in private gardens or parks. Run your hand over a rosemary or English Lavender frond. Breathe in the fragrance and notice the effect it produces in your “mind’s eye.” 
  4. Finally, this one is for those who want to see the stars. Check out your local observatory! Even if it is a little drive away, make a special outing for the entire family! This only occurred as a possibility as I drove home from the airport after my trip mentioned above. I’d waited too long to satisfy the need to experience a clear night’s vision of the cosmos! Even as I finish this article, I promise to find an observatory in the Sacramento area within the next three weeks. I’ve waited long enough to get my fill of the Cosmos!  How about you?

Please let me know what you’re going to do that will bring you closer to your experience of nature. Notice what this does to and for your creative imagination!

Until next time!

Wishing you all my best,