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Land & Environmental

Down to Earth | The allure of local nature

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By John Baldasare

My heartfelt appreciation to all the environmental activists and stewards of nature in our community. I suppose we have a higher number of these folks per capita than most any village, town or city anywhere. Yellow Springs is known for this stuff. So thank you for providing and protecting these spaces, for it is there that we immediately and abundantly find solace, healing and a sense of peace.

What is it about nature and its allure? Why do some of us feel pulled to rush into the lush wildness that lies apart from the busyness of our societal spaces?

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From my earliest memory, I have found those natural settings, wherever they might be — in a ditch or a culvert, in a creek bed, in the dirt, in a pond or field. When I would wander as a small child, I drifted toward the natural spaces. It was soothing, a tonic of sorts, helping to heal the injury of a home fraught with chaos and violence.

I always knew where I stood with nature. There was a wonder and respect that came as naturally as the sounds of peace that prevailed in these settings. The silence there was expressive, though I had no clue as to what was being expressed. And I continued to seek it out.

In early childhood, we lived near Wolf Creek in West Dayton. I was exploring that waterway daily in most seasons, getting to know all the aspects and nuances.

When I was 9, we moved to the southeast part of town, near Woodland Cemetery, and the beautiful 200 acres of hills and woods became my go-to place.

In high school and college, Yellow Springs and the Glen called out frequently, and I made regular visits to these and other natural areas in our region.

Adulthood was marked by a 40-year career in mental health and addictions treatment services. I was sure to get out and about before, during and after work. My lunchtime ritual usually meant walking in nature for most of the time out of the office. I really don’t know how I could have done it otherwise. It provided me with the juice that kept me going and effective.

Always finding my spot, a place of peace, has continued to sustain me in all life circumstances and travails. So it became the mountains around Tucson or Central Virginia, the primitive beaches and tidal basins in the South Carolina Low Country for the years that I resided in those areas. It was a tugging, a call to deeply experience those compelling natural areas that became a consistent and reverent theme in my life, enriching me in ways that were unimaginable.

And now, once again, for the past two years, it is Yellow Springs, and the surrounding wonders to behold and engage with each and every day.

So today, when I enter Glen Helen or Clifton Gorge, it is akin to going to church and the gym at the same time, only bigger than that. For it is in this experience that I thrive, living for another day to absorb all of the goodness and beauty made available. Oh, how lucky I am to call this place home, embracing nature that embraces me.

At 74 years old, I cannot imagine how I could have survived this long without my frequent visits to the natural world. It sustains me, enriches me, informs me and feeds me life itself, in all its deliciousness. It is natural to love nature, and it is natural for nature to love us back in a life-giving, life-enhancing way. The benefits to our overall well-being are immeasurable. The 1,000 or more good studies done in the past 10 years on the positive effect of being in nature demonstrates just how important it is to go there. We, as a community committed to the preservation of our natural wonders, are doing a great service to the cause of mental, physical and spiritual wellness. Our solution is all around us. Thank you again for your contributions.

*The writer is a Yellow Springs resident and the author of “Knowing Affliction and Doing Recovery: How to Overcome Addiction, Mental Illness, and PTSD with The Dayton Model.”

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