This has been a very green year for us in New Mexico and I love walking in the hills around my house. When I feel discouraged it never fails to lift my spirits. Often, one or two of my kids will accompany me and I am always so happy to have them with me. We have special conversations that wouldn’t have happened at home with all the noise and interruptions. It’s a chance for me to get to know their hearts. If my husband walks with me, it’s a chance for him to get to know mine.
Sometimes we run or ride bikes, but mostly we walk. We love to walk in the warm sun, or at night with only the moon and stars for light. Weather doesn’t deter us. We walk even in the deep, new snow, making the first tracks to be seen.
I believe nature is for connecting. The best family reunions happen out in nature. Scout troops and young women groups find it essential to be outdoors. Our Savior connected with his Father for 40 days out in the wilderness. So many prophets, such as, Joseph Smith, John the Baptist, Moses, and Nephi learned of their missions, or gained vital instruction, by spending time out in nature.
I’m usually such a home-body that I forget how essential it is to be outside. Why do I let myself miss out on a soul restored? Even when I’m alone outside, I am not alone. I am connecting through nature to the spirit of God.
When it snows, I have a particular group of pinon and juniper trees I love to visit that form a little cave; like a secret hideout. Weaving through carefully, so as not to disturb the heavily laden boughs, I look for the tree with a limb like a bench. There I sit, in the secret room, amidst the sparkling white powder; and there I connect.
To be in nature is to be nearer to God. From a tiny blue flower in the pot by the door, to a majestic mountain perch looking down on a valley; it’s all connections.
Sometimes, I stop and hold the branch of a tree and tell it, spirit to spirit, how beautiful it is. My husband caught me doing this with a Christmas tree once, tears streaming down my cheeks. It was one of those special moments when he knew he’d married a lunatic. But I believe these living things have spirits and it never hurt anyone to talk to their plants and show a little appreciation. I think they want to please us; it is their purpose on earth.
When I first moved to New Mexico eight years ago, I didn’t know if I could survive without the trees, rivers, and beaches I grew up with in California. Yet here, I feel like I am connecting with the past. Much of the land seems as empty as it was hundreds or thousands of years ago. The big blue skies are unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere. I love the yellow prairies, and the hills and mountains we explore. I can imagine away the telephone poles and occasional ragged fencing, so that I am free to picture myself as a lone traveler on some long ago journey.
I wish everyone had a bit of land or a little garden that they could explore. All children should be able to play and explore safely out in nature. Everyone needs to make these connections. Children shouldn’t be stuck in a classroom. They should have the freedom to explore. Nature is its own school.
The connections made in nature draw me closer to the people who are important to me, and to the spirit who can teach me what my mission is and who I am. I believe Heavenly Father created this earth for us, his children, to have a place to learn and grow and make these essential connections. When we take the time to turn off all the noise and be quiet, he is there.