In 2017, Florence Williams wrote an outstanding book called The Nature Fix. It’s the best collection I’ve read about the science behind the restorative effects of nature. (It’s akin to Richard Louv’s The Nature Principle but more focused solely on the science.) Williams traveled the globe from Japan to Utah to Scotland in an effort to answer the question of exactly why spending time in nature is so healing for us.
What makes the book my favorite is Williams, a journalist, brings a neutral but skeptical eye to the process. She interviews a multitude of scientists, researchers, and therapeutic program directors, sometimes immersing herself in their current studies and retreats, to learn about the latest findings. Then, in a friendly but unsentimental voice, she easily translates those findings into simple, digestible information for the reader.
Reporting With a Personal Touch
She also mixes in a touch of her personal history and experiences too. She examines why she always felt happier in Boulder, Colorado rather than Washington, D.C. (hint, it has to do with the availability of natural landscapes). And we hear the story of her father being hit by a car to illustrate the positive effects of hospitalized patients looking out a window at nature during recovery. It’s a perfect mix of personal stories that reflect the broader issues.
If you’re curious about what exactly the latest research is on the restorative effects of nature, check out this book. It’s an engaging, fascinating read. And seeing how researchers are still conducting and publishing studies, I hope Williams will write a second edition or follow up soon.
I was passing by our local art gallery the other day, feeling rushed and worried. Then I noticed these gorgeous paintings. They’re a collaboration by Cindra Avery and Melissa Newell who are both local Northwest artists. I couldn’t stop gazing at these magnificent paintings of leaves. They locked me into a trance of admiration. I felt my breath slow, my vision calm. After a few moments, I walked away, reminded of how much a few plant paintings can lower stress and soothe the soul.
Collaborative by Nature
The pieces together are called “Collaborative by Nature.” As the artists say, “It represents a six-year creative collaboration focused on the natural world. The impetus for this work was based on our shared interests in gardening, birds, collage and mixed media design.”
The artists describe how the theme emerged organically: “We passed pieces back and forth until both of us felt we had fully explored the material, the surfaces, and finally, the meaning. When we first started this experiment in creative collaboration, we were often surprised and a bit unnerved by the work we received and briefly left with ‘What am I supposed to do?’ … Over time our pieces and work evolved, with each of us responding to the marks, color use and forms as we pushed each other in new directions.”
They’re Just Leaves But…
What is it about an artistic manifestation of plants that’s so alluring? After all, the actual subjects are just leaves. But something in my brain locked onto those recognizable images and then studied their unique curvatures, textures, and color. It was as if I’d seen those plants and yet hadn’t seen them. Avery and Newell had rendered their essence in the plant paintings but via an elevated interpretation that offered something wholly new to the world.
If you’d like to learn more about these wonderful artists, check out Melissa’s website here.
Yesterday, in writing about why playing with plants makes us happy, I came across this lovely fractal pattern leaf. So for today’s Daily Stress ReLeaf, I thought I’d do a short post and share it. You may have learned from a previous post about why gazing at these fractal images is so healing for souls. To refresh your memory, their natural patterns fit with the way our eyes naturally scan images, making for a congruent experience that relaxes us. After all of these years as a gardener, it’s still hard for me to understand how a leaf can make itself this way. It’s so spectacular and complex and yet so usual.
The Power of a Close Up
I wanted to write about the image’s photographer but it came from FreePhotosArt on Pixabay. There’s not much information about the person but they seem to be Russian or in that part of the world. In addition to the fractal pattern leaf, they’ve put up photos of forests, fields, train tracks, and other dreamy images of nature. If you need photos for a blog or website, or just want to explore, check out this talented person’s work.
I hope you have a few minutes today to take in this image’s loveliness. It will help lower your heart rate and calm you.
Have a great day!
Today I was thinking about why to play with plants. It seems frivolous and like not something that matters whether we do or don’t. But play offers a host of benefits and since plants can relax us, playing with plants can create a special kind of fun happiness. Here are five healing benefits of play according to play therapist and researcher Charles Schaeffer.
Play elevates the spirit
Because the goals you pursue when you play are ultimately non-consequential, it takes the pressure off. So, when we play, we feel energized rather than sapped of energy. Fiddling with houseplants or gardening or even tossing a ball amidst trees combines the visually relaxing benefits of plants with the lighthearted euphoria that play offers. A great combination.
Play begets optimism
During play we sometimes win or accomplish a little goal, which can be a pleasant surprise, but when we lose or fail at whatever we’re doing, we’re usually not too upset because the goals aren’t consequential. That’s the theory anyway. So because the pressure’s off, we’re more likely to maintain a relaxed feeling that everything will be okay. Plants are similar. If you care for just one plant successfully, you’ll feel more positive about yourself and perhaps ready to take on another.
Play teaches new skills
When we play, we often develop a skill without really trying. Take for instance, guitar. I love playing around on the guitar, figuring out new melodies while also practicing chords and the songs I love. There’s really no pressure. Applied to plants, you’ll learn more about how to best care for them by reading up on what conditions they like and experimenting with what to do from day to day. If you can maintain that feeling of fun for the sake of fun, you’ll get better at horticulture while hardly noticing.
Play betters our physical health
Not only does play provide a sense of optimism and elevate the spirit, if done as a physical activity, it can get us in better shape. We all know that playing a game of tennis will circulate our blood, strengthen the heart, and release the happy drug of endorphins. So, playing physically with plants can do the same thing. And by that, I mean gardening in your backyard or hiking in the woods or even riding a stationary bike while watching a houseplant video. It all adds up to better bodily health.
Play connects us to others
When we play with others, we see each other for our best, most lighthearted selves. We also monitor our feelings as well as other people’s feelings. It’s excellent practice in social interaction. Plus, we don’t feel so alone and make wonderful shared memories. Our family has played a lot of badminton and has shared memories around that. But you don’t need a yard. If you can get into nature and stroll with a friend or toss a ball around in a park, you’ll take in those fractal patterns while building better relationships.
Do you ever play with plants? If so, let me know how in the comments. I’m always looking for new ideas.
Photo by Khamkhor
Today I wanted to share the lovely bread art I came across online. It shows a fun way to put plant art in food and play for the sake of play. It also offers a new idea for getting some stress releaf. With chives, basil, peppers, onions, olives, and all else, you can use plants to create a beautiful bouquet of flowers in focaccia bread. It’s almost too pretty to eat!
The trend began with Vineyard Baker on Instagram, who as she says puts the art in artisan bread. She has several great ideas for plant art in food, including dessert breads, which use fruit and nuts. Afterward, Elizabeth at Sugar Geek Show showed us a great basic recipe for baking a bouquet into bread. Apparently, it’s fairly easy. You stretch your focaccia bread into the edges of a sheet pan so it makes a rectangular canvas, then let it rise, then decorate and bake. I love it!
I haven’t tried it yet but I’d like to. I imagine you could use certain vegetables, herbs, and spices if you want more of an Italian flavor, Mexi flavor, Middle Eastern, etc. I might experiment with my daughter this weekend. If you try it, let me know. I love it when people get creative with plants!