Inspiration, the Natural World, and Mental Health

Do you have a favorite author?

I have loved different writers at various times in my life. At present, one of my favorites is Barbara Kingsolver. What? You don’t know her work? Well, you should try one of her best known, The Poisonwood Bible, the story of a missionary family in the Congo in the late 1950’s. Or perhaps you would like her first novel, The Bean Trees, the tale of a young woman escaping rural Kentucky to establish her life as an independent woman. Those of you interested in eating locally and creating a more sustainable natural future for us all would enjoy one of her non-fiction titles, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

This past weekend, we attended Seth’s 40th reunion at Duke University. The only event I was intent upon attending was the presentation of the LEAF award granted by the Nicholas School of the Environment for Lifetime Environmental Achievement in the Fine arts. This year’s award was given to Kingsolver. I was hoping to hear something inspirational from this wonderful writer. I was not disappointed. Her reading from Prodigal Summer, one of her books I have not read, reminded me of her powerful ability to poignantly describe the natural world and our place in it. That one has moved to the top of my reading list.

The Dean of the Nicholas School, Dr. William L. Chameides, in addition to his administrative and teaching responsibilities, writes a blog called The Green Grok. As best I can tell so far, it is a wonderful source of factual environmental information and inspiration toward sustainable living. I am a new subscriber.

On Sunday we spent a few hours in the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. What a wonderful setting this is! According to the garden web site, this beautiful place was built in a debris-filled ravine…truly a recovery of the land to its best possible use. While I will never create something of such beauty as the Duke Gardens, my visit there inspired me to return home to beautify my own surroundings, to assure that the vegetables I have planted thrive, and to thoroughly enjoy the bird life on our property. My own contribution to the natural world, its protection and preservation may be small, but it is heartfelt. I am grateful for the inspiration of artists and naturalists to keep me going in my bit of work to enhance my natural surroundings.

As a professional who has worked in and with behavioral health organizations for 35 years, I strongly feel the need to encourage a focus on the natural world as a primary way to improve our mental health. I returned home with a renewed focus of that imperative.

What do your favorite authors inspire in you?  Please share your comments below.

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