New England, the place to be in the autumn, right! An explosion of colour from bursts of tangerine to shades of crimson, nature is at its most picturesque time of year. Can’t argue with that but what I can say is that New England got its spirited reputation honestly—inherited it from Old England, if you will.
Two weekends in a row I’ve found myself mesmerised by nature—just nature.
At a recent retreat, during an out-of-doors experience, I was first attracted to the polished, manicured lawns of an old country house turned hotel, but then noticed the naturally arranged trees in the distance and couldn’t get enough of walking amongst them. It was there that I discovered the benefits of leaving my comfort zones. More on that later but also I suddenly noticed the humanity of trees, how they lived cheek by jowl as we do, but manage to have more than enough space to grow. Somehow they didn’t crowd each other, try to get rid of each other. It was in diversity that they seemed to thrive rather than to stumble. Even suffering had not conquered them.
Upon reflection, the facilitator, let’s call her a tree whisperer of sorts, wondered if I had become a part of the landscape. As I sat to contemplate my experience, I saw what she meant and have had a new reverence for the out-of-doors since.
Surely, it was this eye opening experience, which led me to Wakehurst, Kew’s lush gardens and woodlands in Sussex. Actually, it was my husband who suggested we visit as a part of an early birthday present. All the same, it was an extraordinary gift, a wonderful experience.
Back to the issue of comfort zone, I wandered into the beautiful gardens and grounds and felt ever so comfortable with one tree in particular – a striking, sage beauty, though tinier that most around her – and wandered over to have a photograph with it only to find that the sunlight didn’t do the picture justice. It was then that I crossed the road and posed in front of a seemingly orchestrated landscape to discover in the distance behind me, nature untamed. A variety of colours and textures allured me (see above).
There is something to say about stepping out of one’s comfort zone now and again. For me in this instance, it has opened my eyes to the goodness of nature, cultivated or uncultivated. From its stunning beauty to its exhilarating scents, nature is an intrinsic part of life, offering healing properties and so on and invaluable lessons to live by.
When I was a girl, I entered and won a Georgia US statewide writing contest – What a Tree Means to Me. Trees are a symbol of life, I wrote all those years ago.
Fast-forward, forty something years later, I know this simple truth is still relative and likely always will be. But as an adult, I now understand that we can learn a lot from trees, ranging from how to deal with suffering to healing. Wakehurst is a great example of that, having recovered from the storm of 1987. The woodland lost some 20,00 trees.
Of course, in such learning we have a responsibility, not only to plant seeds, even if only metaphorically, but also to nurture them, let them breathe and flourish. Hence the beautiful parks, gardens of both Old and New England as well as the untamed woodlands—a hassle-free way to step out of one’s comfort zone.