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Nature Restores Us

Kathy Werner - Columnist
Posted 6/3/21

Living as we do in the country, there is much to see all around us if we keep our eyes open.

I've just begun reading some chapters of Anne Murphy Paul's new book, “The Extended Mind: The Power …

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Nature Restores Us

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Living as we do in the country, there is much to see all around us if we keep our eyes open.

I've just begun reading some chapters of Anne Murphy Paul's new book, “The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain” which has some truly interesting ideas about the many ways humans use all their senses to expand their thinking. In a recent email, she talked about how she used this information in writing the book.

She writes, “Writing The Extended Mind led me to employ nature as an attention-restorer. Before beginning my work on the book, I regarded my attention span in terms of how I spent it, how I managed it, how I controlled it (or, often, failed to control it). I didn't think in terms of how I might replenish it.

That changed once I learned about how intense mental effort drains our attention, and how gentle, diffuse contemplation fills it back up…As we walk through a park or along a trail in the woods, our brains enter a relaxed state that allows our attentional capacity to be restored.”

There is plenty of wildlife to be observed as well, which can be soothing, fascinating, and downright compelling must-see drama. Just outside my window I have a hummingbird feeder and watching the almost constant visits by my ruby-throated friends is very soothing.

I also have a family of chipmunks who have been very busy lately filling their cheek pouches with those maple seeds and scurrying back to their house under the rock in my garden.

But the most dramatic interaction I have seen occurred last week when I looked out my window early one morning and saw an adult fox in my backyard. He seemed huge to me, with a tail as long as his body. Truly a beautiful animal.

In this scene, I saw a bunny hopping rapidly offstage. And then I saw the other actor in this drama—Patches, my neighbor's infamous cat, who has been known to cause trouble all over the neighborhood.

Patches decided that it was time to let Mr. Fox know that this was his territory and ran right up to him. There was a bit of a standoff before Mr. Fox put his tail between his legs and walked away. Now that's drama. By the way, courtesy of my son Mike, Patches has his own Instagram: @thebullycat, www.instagram. com/thebullycat.

One of his signature moves is lying in the middle of the road and defying anyone to make him move. Once when we were having a party at my house Patches jumped through the skylight of my brother's vehicle and was waiting for him when he opened the door. Patches pretty much runs things around here.

In any event, though scientists may be just now confirming it, we humans have known for ages the restorative power of spending time in nature. How lucky we are to live in a place where a casual glance out a kitchen window can help our brains relax and refocus.

And continue to live in fear of Patches.

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