Too often we become so consumed with life that we don’t take time to breathe, relax, and be in nature. Natural beauty surrounds us but oftentimes we don’t take time to enjoy it. Recently I went camping with my sons. The calm smooth pond, the gentle breeze, and the beautiful green hillside was breathtaking. While embracing the moment, I began to reflect on the life lessons that nature teaches us.

One of my favorite seasons is Fall. The vibrant orange, red and yellow leaves are breathtaking. A tree doesn’t resist its leaves changing colors or resist when they sadly lose their leaves in the winter. With severe, consistent wind, it’s branches will conform. A tree that doesn’t bend with the wind will be broken by the wind. When the seasons and conditions are ideal, a tree will grow at a normal rate, but when the conditions are not ideal, the wise tree slows down its growth and will use all its energy for the basic elements that are necessary for survival. A tree is vulnerable, open to change, firm and steady with its roots deep and secure in the earth.

Rivers are alluring, peaceful, and serene. They give unselfishly sharing with the earth, sky, and the ocean. A river is constantly moving, never idle or still. Forever forward movement, day in and day out. When kept within the bounds they nourish and feed life into all things, but when they break the bounds, they destroy lives and properties. When floating a river, you are aimlessly taken wherever the current is taking you. You can use your wisdom to know when to let go and trust the path for your life or when it’s time to swim against the current, overcome all obstacles and create a new path. My father once asked me when I was a child, “why are rivers crooked?” He then taught me; rivers are crooked because they take the path of least resistance. Let us remember to forge our own path, not taking the easiest or most convenient way.

Mountains are firm and steady in the midst of the severest of all storms. When climbing a mountain there may be struggle, pain and doubt wondering if it will be worth it. Once a summit is reached the view is magnificent reminding us that our view is limited without the struggle. Joy is achieved when striving for something and doing difficult things. We can learn that even while climbing the mountain, beauty and goodness surrounds us, we can be at peace and enjoy each moment.

Flowers bring happiness and joy. A hillside covered with flowers is stunning. Even in their simplicity, they breathe new life into a home, office, or hospital room. They are usually given as gifts of love and admiration. Each flower is unique, not one is the same. The fragrances can lighten a mood or draw insects and birds from miles away. Just like flowers, we can uplift, bring joy and heal others with our inner beauty and goodness.

At Cascade Academy students are taught and shown a healthy life practice as they are in nature daily. Wellness walks, adventure outings, meditation, and mindfulness awaken their curiosity of nature. Their anxiety and depressive symptoms seem to dissipate. As the girls are gently pushed out of their comfort zone they begin to heal, grow, and absorb all that nature has to teach them.  

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