Nature Wisdom: Screen Time vs Nature Time

Pat Tuholske

By Pat Tuholske, Naturalist

Seems many of us today would rather sit inside with screens than explore our native environment. Plugged into laptops, video games, and television, our senses are consumed causing us to be alienated from the natural world. We may watch Nature programs and know a few facts about whales, the rain forest or climate change. But can we identify the call of the spring peeper, catch a fish or know the scent of the black locust flower?

The best gift you can give yourself and children in your life is time in Nature. You know how it feels to take a moment, step outside your door and look at the clouds, listen to birdsong or smell fresh cut grass. Share this moment with a child and watch her open up to the world around them.

My early life was full of fishing trips, chasing fireflies and running the woods. What we experience in our early life becomes part of us. Nature is part of me. I would not be the same person without it. As a child I was allowed to run free all day long. We lived in one of the first subdivisions built in the early 50’s in South County. Woods and farmer’s fields surrounded our tract of houses. Looking back on old photos, my brother and I are deeply tanned. We spent all summer being kissed by the sun on the edge of our little wilderness.

We need transcendent childhood experiences in Nature. I felt the great mystery in early evening. Playing outside after supper as the day ended, I listened to hear the first call of the whip-poor-wil. One last run with the fireflies as the stars came out would fill me with a hint of ecstasy, delight, and rapture. On summer nights I would sleep with windows open even after air conditioning was installed in our house. I couldn’t bear to be closed in. I needed to hear the crickets, to breathe the shadowy air and to feel the spirit of night soothe my soul as I drifted to sleep.

As adults, Nature is still there waiting to embrace us. Nature fills the senses and awakens a feeling of kinship with the world. Get away from mind-numbing screens for a while and discover imagination. Connect with the green world and you will feel a greater sense of wonder, creativity and exploration. Find a place where you can see the multitude of stars and contemplate infinity. Experience the very elements of human evolution – earth, air, fire and water – and more fully understand yourself and the world.

We can benefit by exploring Nature through the eyes of a child. Take time during each day to wander in Nature. Hear what the Earth and her creatures are saying to you. It’s easier to hear when you get away from tv, laptops and cell phones. Walk alone with the wind, sing to the sunset or learn from the clouds. Encounter your land and its insects, reptiles and birds. Identify useful wild plants. Build and feed a campfire. Walk alone under the star filled sky.

Experiences in Nature develop a natural intelligence. Natural intelligence is shown by keen sensory skills, awareness of surroundings, close attention to details and a deep love of the outdoors, animals and plants. A person living with Nature manifests an internal calm, common sense and confidence.

So, walk away from the screen and into Nature.

“The human costs of alienation from Nature: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses, a rising rate of myopia, child and adult obesity, Vitamin D deficiency, and other maladies. These problems are linked more broadly to what health care experts call the “epidemic of inactivity.” Nonetheless, we believe that society’s Nature-Deficit Disorder can be reversed.” Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods

See Pat’s Wild Wreaths, Twig and Feather Art crafted from Ozark native flora and fauna at WillowRainHerbalGoods.com and at Green Door Art Gallery. Check out her Field Journal for musings on the Human-Nature relationship.