Engaging With Nature

By Sister Catherine “Missy” Gugerty

Sister Missy Gugerty on the snow-covered trails in Park City, Utah.

It was near perfect timing! I arrived just as the shuttle bus came rolling onto the campus filled with excited children ranging in age from 8–12 years old from an outreach center in an economically depressed area of Baltimore. The bus came to a stop at one of my favorite spots on campus – an area outlined by evergreen trees. The kids were full of energy as they lined up, impatient to get off the bus. The door of the bus opened. The first child took one step down and abruptly stopped. With a big smile on my face, I welcomed him and extended my hand to help him down the next step. Rather than exit the bus, he stood there with his eyes and mouth wide open. The kids behind him were pushing each other and calling at him to get off the bus. My hand still extended I said, “It’s okay, I can help you off the bus.” After what seemed like an eternity he softly said, “I have never ever seen this many trees in my WHOLE life!” I turned and looked at the evergreens behind me; then, just shy of being dismissive, I hurried him off the bus. Once off the bus, he stepped aside and again said, “Wow, that is a WHOLE lot of trees!” Struck by his reaction, I asked if he wanted to walk down closer to the trees. With his friends calling out to him, he said “no thanks” and ran to catch up with them. As I watched him run toward his friends, he kept looking back at the trees just like someone does when in total disbelief of what he is seeing.

That experience 30-plus years ago led me into a deep exploration of my own, previously taken for granted, relationship with nature – how it came to be, and most especially how it sustains me through all the seasons of my life. My life, my whole being, has been greatly enriched in a myriad of ways since then!

Click here for several ways in which nature has informed/formed me. May your engagement in these activities gift you as they have gifted me.

If this story about the young boy has piqued your interest in learning more about nature deprivation, the following articles may be of interest to you:

Center for American Progress | The Nature Gap: Confronting Racial and Economic Disparities in the Destruction and Protection of Nature in America.

Richard Louv | What is Nature-Deficit Disorder?

The Wilderness Society: Access to Nature is a Human Right | Learn How to Become an Advocate