Honoring the spirit in nature

Last modified: 2/22/2016 6:07:03 PM
When we lived in New York City for 20 years, being able to visit the Monadnock region provided the opportunity for my husband and me to get a much needed nature fix at various points in our lives. I didn’t fully understand it then, but our time in nature was much needed food for our souls.

A couple of years ago, after we moved to this area full time, I attended a talk at the Milford Unitarian Universalist church by local author Thomas Moore, who wrote the New York Times bestseller “Care of the Soul,” which has just been republished in its 25th anniversary edition. In that talk, Moore discussed two essential elements in caring for the soul. One was home. Are you living in the right country, the right region, the right neighborhood, the right community, the right home? I love the idea of making sure your soul feels at home.

And I was tickled to hear him say that the second most important element in caring for our souls is food. How are you nourishing yourself with love? What foods are meaningful for you? He talked about how chopping vegetables is such a meditative practice. And the deep pleasure of sharing food with loved ones.

These ideas echo my own experience. Since we moved to this region, both my husband and I feel a gentle peacefulness and contentment of spirit in our daily lives that we didn’t experience in the city. We live surrounded by trees: oak, birch, maple, pine, beech, hemlock, ash, cherry, spruce, and a wood I’ve only recently learned about as it burns so well in our cast-iron Jotul woodburning stove; hophornbeam.

We also share the landscape with various wildlife: wild turkeys, deer, a bobcat, black bear, coyote, flying squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, porcupines, fox — and these are just the animals we’ve seen.

At night, we hear barred owls, red tail hawks during the day, and woodpeckers — the large pileated woodpeckers with its red crown, in addition to smaller ones, including the yellow-bellied sapsuckers. In the summer, we hear the soft whir of the wings of hummingbirds that are known to locate the grids of holes in trees, created by the yellow-bellied sapsuckers, to feast on the sap themselves, if they’ve arrived from Costa Rica before any flowers have bloomed.

These days my husband and I live more of a quiet, creative, solitary and contemplative life. In contrast to our 20s, 30s and early 40s, which were filled with outward journeys and travel, our days are now more often filled with inward journeys inspired by creating, reading, and writing, especially during this hibernation time of year.

As for caring for our souls through food: In the summer, growing our own vegetables provides an earthy joy, in addition to having easy access to Rosaly’s, one of the largest certified organic farms in New Hampshire and the oldest certified organic farm in the state. In the winter, organic and locally grown vegetables are of course also available in local supermarkets, from Market Basket in Milford to Whole Foods in Nashua, and we feel fortunate and grateful that enough people in this area value local and organic, which creates a market to sustain these businesses. These days when friends and family visit, we both feel it’s a great excuse to create a feast to enjoy celebrating life together.

It’s easy to take things for granted, but living in the Monadnock region provides the opportunity to create a soul nourishing environment on so many levels.

It’s important to remind ourselves how lucky we are to live in this corner of the planet.

The Rev. Camilla Sanderson lives in Temple and is presently practicing creative nonfiction writing in a low-residency MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is the author of “The Mini Book of Mindfulness,” which will be published by Running Press in March.


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