When I'm running trails and having a particularly good day, sometimes I'll stretch my arms out a bit at my sides, opening up my palms toward the sky. It's a posture of receiving, of gratitude. I take a couple of deep breaths and visualize accepting what my surroundings are offering me, allowing the invisible to flow through my palms.
In those moments, arms outstretched, I am filled with the collective energy of the richness of life and beauty around me. I feel held, comforted, and energized, part of a cosmic dance, fully alive.
In 2019, the Museum Fire set Flagstaff's Dry Lake Hills ablaze, ripping through trails deeply cherished by local outdoor recreationists. Fueled by half-finished forest thinning efforts and lumber piles, certain areas I knew and loved burnt unimaginably hot. Seeing thick smoke billowing from the hillside sent shockwaves of grief through me.
The year following the fire, Brookbank Trail re-opened, in the heart of the burn scar. Besides being a useful thoroughfare to opposite ends of the Dry Lake Hills, I adored the rich vegetation that graced Upper Brookbank, and the way it perfectly framed the San Francisco Peaks to the west. On my first run up the trail since the fire, I crested the climb and stepped out onto the northern aspect of the hills, confronted by a stark sea of black and brown. Overwhelmed by the scene, I knelt in the dirt and cried big, blubbering walrus sobs.
I placed my hand gently on the dirt, as if on the shoulder of a wounded friend. My heart broke and I grieved for this loss of life.
After a few minutes of quiet contemplation and a cathartic cry, I resumed my run due east, still misty-eyed. I stretched my arms out, but this time I pointed my palms down, toward the ground below. Instead of a posture of receiving, the moment led me to a physical manifestation of offering. I called upon my own vitality, visualizing sending whatever energy I could into the scarred earth, an intention of healing that came from the deepest reaches of my soul.
When I returned home from my journey through the burn scar, my mom sent me a message that serves as the title for this post: your love for nature is part of its healing.
Being fully present in the natural world is an energetic exchange. Nature offers a bounty of intangible gifts, if we are present and open to receiving it. It gives us joy, hope, healing, gratitude, and much more when we tune into its life force.
As living things, birthed from nature herself, we can enter these exchanges with intention and reciprocity. We are not meant to be consumers of nature, taking from it and leaving thoughtlessly. Recreation isn't a transaction, where we get pretty photos, a workout, and material for an AllTrails review. We are living things who are an integral part of the natural world. We are in relationship with it. Reciprocity in our relationship with nature isn't limited to the physical manifestations of stewardship, like volunteering for trail work or following Leave No Trace guidelines.
Rather, our connection with nature can go deeper, to the intangible, emotional plane. As with any other relationship, we can offer our hearts to it. Nature is a living thing, or perhaps more accurately, the intricate, interconnected summation of a million trillion living things. We can consciously opt in to this grand symphony of interconnection with our love. When we acknowledge, reach out, and connect with the life around us, we can both receive and give healing.
Your love matters. Give it freely.