“Whenever you can… open up your windows.”
I opened the windows of my bedroom last night, wanting to hear the sound of the thunder and rain as I fell asleep. In wafted the distinct scent of lightning strikes. Finally the dry spell was over, and I slept well. There must be something in my DNA, going back a thousand generations to when humans lived closer to the earth, that gives me comfort when I hear a storm and the sounds of nature at night.
In our time we live as though we are separated from nature, as if we could somehow manage without it, but of course that is nonsense. The earth and sky are our home from which the rains fall and the seeds sprout. They are our source of nourishment. Nature is also our source of awe and wonder, and that too is life giving.
Closed up in our homes, with the temperature regulated by the touch of a finger, we are in a sense removed from ourselves. We are removed from ourselves because we are nature. It is hardwired within us. The Bible tells us that we are made from the earth, and cosmologists tell us that our flesh and bones consist of cells from stardust. I am sure we could never be complete without being close to the earth.
Some years ago the prestigious journal Science carried a paper with one of those commonsense findings that your grandmother could have pointed out: “A view through a window may influence recovery from surgery.” An American architect specializing in hospital design had found that patients make substantially better and quicker recovery from surgery if they have a room with an outside view of trees. The patients in the study required less pain medication and experienced fewer post-operative complications. Simply viewing nature was a tincture.
The study reminds me of the poem by Joyce Kilmer that I memorized in grade school. “I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree…. A tree that looks at God all day, and lifts her leafy arms to pray….” I felt my heart lift reciting her words, her images so clear and graceful. I found them calming. “A tree that may in Summer wear, a nest of robins in her hair….” I still recite them from time to time if I am troubled, and when I am old and frail all I ask is to be set before such scenery.
When I was a child, and I became grumpy and bored, my mother would tell me to go outside and play. Our back yard had a grove of maple trees, bees flying in and out of the garden, and a box turtle that I would discover now and then. These things as well as a hundred other natural fascinations made me a happier child and improved my well-being.
Whenever you can, especially in this summer season, open up your windows. Think of it as a decision toward good health. Better to be uncomfortable in the heat than to always be shut in. When it storms, let the spray come through your screen. Go to sleep with the racket of crickets, and let the birds wake you up at the crack of dawn with their riotous singing. On your daily walk to the mailbox, take notice of the simple wonders just outside your front door.
And to your good health and mine, pray that we will be good stewards of this lovely and fearsome creation, so that it will always be this way.