Laurie is a health and wellness professional providing coaching and workshops on stress management, expressive arts healing, and health education. She has a strong connection to nature and has felt its healing benefits firsthand, so all of her programs incorporate nature as a key element for promoting healing and managing stress to achieve a more balanced life. Through her work, she helps others learn how connecting to nature can benefit overall wellness, managing stress, and clarifying life priorities. Laurie holds a BS in Psychology of Health and Wellness and is a Certified Worksite Wellness Program Manager, Expressive Arts Facilitator, Stress Management Specialist and Certified Nature Therapy Guide (Advanced). You can visit her website at HealthPerceptionsLLC.com.
We gathered at a small area at the River Bend Nature Center that has several wooden benches in a circle. In this quiet area I launched into the introduction, which included introducing myself, the title of the walk, “The Power of Change-Resilience in Action,” a quick overview of the area, the safety tips, and a challenge to look for signs of change from winter to spring as we went along.
We had a beautiful sunny day and began the walk by noting all the bags the nature center staff had hanging from many of the maple trees in the woods. I discussed a little of how at the change in season from winter to spring, the maple trees offered something new: they give new life to the tree between February and March. As the tree warms during the day from the sun, the sap moves up from the roots of the tree to help bring buds to the branches for new leaves, but flows back to the bottom of the trunk when the weather cools off for the day. In late morning to midday, when the tree trunk is warmest, the sap flows freely and can be drained from the tree to collect the sap for maple syrup. By end of March, the sap will slow as trees start budding and that will end the prime time for collecting sap from the maple trees in Wisconsin. We noted that the staff was careful not to take too much from the tree, so it could still provide the nourishment for the new leaves–bringing new life all around the woods!
We continued on, noting the variation in color, habitat potential and protection where the prairie met the woods, as well as various signs of new life growing through the ground. We proceeded to follow the script outlined in my activity worksheet, and stopped by the maple tree, river, and the large roots of an oak tree. I pointed out the trees that had fallen, and that while they may no longer grow, they still serve a purpose as nourishment and habitat for insects, animals and birds. We looked at sapwood rot on several trees and talked about how it will grow in a crack or where they may be trauma in a tree and how it can affect the strength of the tree. We saw lichen on trees, and I explained that it survives from elements in the air and does not necessarily harm the tree–unless it overtakes so much of the bark that it denies the tree sunlight, which can harm the tree. That led to a conversation about moderation in life!
We also saw some fur on the trail in several spots, so we talked about the ebb and flow of life: how when the tree or an animal life ends, it still serves a purpose, in other ways, for the other forms of life in the woods–much like when we end one chapter or phase in life and move into another. We noted the various bird calls we heard and had a discussion about which birds stay for winter, while others migrate and then return as the season changes to spring.
We talked about how each season teaches how to adapt and change throughout challenges in our lives as well: spring bringing new life, new opportunity, renewal and new growth for us; summer being a time of sustenance, maintenance, vibrancy; fall bringing abundance, colorful changes, harvest and preparation for winter; and finally, winter bringing restoration, a sense of hibernation and reflection before springing forward to start anew.
We spent a good deal of time talking about adaptation, related to the challenges faced over time by plants, animals and water in this environment, and how we can learn from nature about how to be resilient and keep moving forward. I shared that resilience does not mean we do not struggle with change or adversity, but that we move forward and find a way to adapt or persevere. Adversity is always a part of life, for any lifeform, but it is important to keep redesigning and adapting to meet those challenges and move on to learn from them.
My participant stated she really liked the meditation part at the beginning as a strategy for centering everyone and preparing for the walk with a focus on nature. She stated she would have missed many of the things that we noticed during our walk if I had not pointed them out, because she often just looks at the obvious things (like trees, flowers, squirrels), so she does not always take time to notice things like lichen, or the leaf bed as potential homes (for insects, rodents, etc.) or the perspective of leaves being repurposed to nourish the soil and trees. She loved the idea of relating nature and the seasonal changes back to how life can change and the idea that nature can show us the benefit of adaptation and resilience.
I felt the nature therapy walk was a positive experience and definitely conveyed the correlation between resilience in nature to managing change and challenges in our lives. We did a lot of visual and auditory experiences during the walk, and I feel I offered good open-ended questions to elicit involvement from her as well. While there were other hikers on the trail, it was easy to find ways to keep aligned with the program I had planned. The activity correlated well to the topic and concepts being conveyed and helped personalize the experience and offer hands on use of the ability to see issues from a new perspective. We had a good conversation about seeing life challenges in a different way by perceiving them as a natural part of the ebb and flow of life and not overwhelming or permanent changes, but opportunities for growth, new strategies and new directions in life. I think the walk was a perfect length of time, variety of terrain and brought in a nice variety of natural elements that served as prime examples of resilience and change.