As a teenager, I took comfort in the mountains, beaches, and deserts near my family’s home in Los Angeles. We lived within bike-riding distance of the Pacific shore and its coastal hills, while the granitic San Gabriel Mountains and the bright Mojave Desert were just hours away. The nearness of so much nature offered respite from unhappiness at home, and I learned to head outdoors when feeling stressed. Like countless humans before me, I found solace in the landscape. The earth’s beauty is imprinted in our biology as surely as our mother’s face is imprinted in our psychology.
We feel agitated and careworn when isolated from nature. Yet relief doesn’t require travel to virgin wilderness; we can find it beneath a tree in an urban park. When pressed, we can eek it from a dandelion growing happily in a sidewalk crack.
But we often overlook an even more accessible point of contact with nature: the human body. Our eyes, mouths, lungs, and limbs are just as natural as tide-pools, mushrooms, rainforests, and redwoods. Our bodies express the same serene beauty as a meadow in morning sunshine. Spending time outdoors remains helpful, but when we can’t get away, we can go within. We can savor the winds of breath, the gurgle of digestion, the leap of muscle, and the stillness of bone. We can enter our inner landscape with the same awe and appreciation we feel in a mountain range or by the seashore.
The human body is a wild and dynamic ecosystem, swept at times by gales of feeling, but always radiant with sensation and permeated with life. The body is nature, right here, right now.