With COVID lockdowns lifting throughout the country, I encourage those who are safely able to do so to seek solace in the great outdoors. Whether hiking in the mountains or lounging on the beach, the peaceful surroundings of nature can be powerful places for reflection and rejuvenation.
Among my favorite places for such rejuvenation are gardens. From formal botanical gardens to rambling nature preserves, I love to enjoy the amazing variety of flowers, trees, and plants, and to walk along the paths amid the chatter of birds and other wildlife.
I was recently delighted to discover a passage by the renowned physician and writer, Oliver Sacks, about the value of gardens (HT James Clear):
As a writer, I find gardens essential to the creative process; as a physician, I take my patients to gardens whenever possible. All of us have had the experience of wandering through a lush garden or a timeless desert, walking by a river or an ocean, or climbing a mountain and finding ourselves simultaneously calmed and reinvigorated, engaged in mind, refreshed in body and spirit. The importance of these physiological states on individual and community health is fundamental and wide-ranging. In forty years of medical practice, I have found only two types of non-pharmaceutical “therapy” to be vitally important for patients with chronic neurological diseases: music and gardens. (“Why We Need Gardens,” Everything in Its Place: First Loves and Last Tales)
During the recent lockdowns, I took particular comfort in my small patio garden. It has become my own tiny oasis to relax and recharge my batteries. I love creating unique combinations of succulents in various pots, training the bouganvilla on its trellis, and watching birds visit the burbling water fountain. And my patio has recently attracted a family of lizards who love to bask in the sun while I read.
In these crazy times of stress and chaos, consider creating a beautiful garden refuge—or visiting one. Go for a walk in the woods or stroll along a stream. You may find yourself “simultaneously calmed and reinvigorated, engaged in mind, refreshed in body and spirit.”
Here are photos of some of my favorite gardens and outdoor environments I’m looking forward to visiting again soon:
The Huntington Library:
Yosemite National Park: