An Introspective View of Nature’s Impact on “Whole Life” Satisfaction

A Look Backwards at Nature’s Impact Whole Life Satisfaction

I will start by making a general “assumption” about myself compared to my fellow classmates. Forgive me if my personal perspective is inaccurate.

I am 63 years old, pursuing an additional degree in WGS subsidized by the VA. This particular post is the most interesting and personally relevant. I will begin by describing myself as “An extremely sensitive empath.” My momentary “state-of-mind” is easily manipulated by outside forces and circumstances. Reflecting back to my childhood, the best memories I still hold are spending time in my neighbor’s “magical property”. In a stereotypic suburban neighborhood, our backyard neighbor was an elderly woman who had owned the land for many years. The property was an “anomaly” in the otherwise homogenized suburban sprawl. There was a fishpond, beautiful large trees, vegetable and flower gardens and many different types of wildlife. It was the idyllic place to play and commune with nature. It was a secret garden filled with wonder and magic.

The photo below is the only one in my office (other than my grandchildren). It reminds me of the “Best of Times”…and after some reflecting…almost all of my memories are centered some way around “nature”.

Four Corners USA 

Myself and my 2 older sons at "4 Corners" US 1998
This photo is the only one in my office of “family”. It was taken 25 years ago. It was a very special time. I now have a third son and granddaughter.

This photo does symbolize “My Bedrock Democracy” . “Once strengthened by our association with the wild, we can return to family and community.  Each of us belongs to a particular landscape, one that informs who we are, a place that carries our history, our dreams, holds us to a moral line of behavior that transcends thought”. ….”This is the hope of a bedrock democracy, standing our ground in the places we love together. “(Williams 19). There are many times I feel like a displaced person. The forces between nature and modern “civilization” in the Western world seem diametrically opposed. 

Bell Hooks writes: “How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of water, how do you buy them? To me this statement is fact and not an opinion. In this case, Bell Hooks defines place as “everywhere”.

Personally, like many people, I am a Barbara Kingsolver fan. I found this week’s writings especially relevant “….. I didn’t need to be in Africa as I wrote that book; I only needed to be where I could think straight, remember, and properly invent. I needed the blessed emptiness of mind that comes from birdsong and dripping trees. I needed to sleep at night in a square box made of chestnut trees who died of natural causes. The natural habitat of our species is now steel, pavement, streetlights, architecture and enterprise — the hominid agenda . … I find this exodus from the land makes me unspeakably sad Kingsolver It reminds us that our plans are small and somewhat absurd.” (Barbara Kingsolver).

Collectively, these writers all have a central common variable. People and nature are not disconnected from one another, they are a part of one another.  We were born from the water and will return to the earth. Politics can be an ally or an enemy against humanity when it fails to prioritize and unify what laws and practices are beneficial to both humanity as well as nature…..we are all the same. In this philosophy: place + people = politics. 

My profession is in the educational technology field, but I devote time to forming and directing a “Green Committee”. One of my favorite parts of my job is taking young children to a neighboring topiary garden after school to learn about plants and trees. During the work day, my background “noise” are bird song playlists.

I am fortunate enough to live next to a beach in MA. In the warmer weather, I get up early to walk the beach before most other people arrive in order to shoot photographs of the beach from a different, untouched perspective.

Beach Photos

3 Replies to “An Introspective View of Nature’s Impact on “Whole Life” Satisfaction”

  1. Hi Catherine,

    Thank you for sharing your personal perspective and experiences. Clearly, nature plays an important role in your life and is a source of inspiration and solace. Your memories of the magical property in your childhood and your love for the beach and bird songs demonstrate the deep connection you have with the natural world.

    It is inspiring to see that you are taking steps to share your passion for the environment with others, particularly with young children, through your work in the educational technology field and your involvement in a Green Committee. Your dedication to educating and inspiring young people through your work is particularly commendable. In Touching the Heart, bell hooks states that “Living close to nature, black folks were able to cultivate a spirit of wonder and reverence for life. Growing food to sustain life and flowers to please the soul, they were able to make a connection with the earth that was ongoing and life affirming. They were witnesses to beauty” (2). I fear that younger generations will not know the simple pleasures of connecting with nature. By imparting your knowledge and passion for the environment to the next generation, you are helping to create a culture that values and prioritizes sustainability.

    Your reflections on the relationship between people, nature, and politics are also thought-provoking. As you note, humans and nature are interconnected, and our well-being and survival are dependent on the health of the planet. The impact of politics and policies on the environment is significant, and it is important to prioritize and implement practices that are beneficial for both humanity and nature. It is refreshing to see individuals like you, actively working towards creating a sustainable and harmonious future.

    In addition to your reflections on the relationship between people, nature, and politics, your personal experiences and passion for the environment highlight the urgency of taking action to address the environmental challenges we face. As you mentioned, the degradation of the environment is a result of human activities, and it is our responsibility to mitigate these impacts and work towards a more viable future.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. Your words serve as a reminder of the importance of cherishing and protecting our natural world.

    Here is a video by Save the Children UK that you might find helpful in further discussing the climate crisis with children.

    Works Cited

    hooks, bell. “Touching The Earth.” Orion Magazine, 1996,

  2. Catherine –

    We have something in common! I am almost 50 (September of this year) and I took am pursuing (finishing) my undergraduate degree in Women and Gender Studies! My previous degree (associates) was in business and law. I continued on but never finished. When I decided to go back, I wanted to spend the time and energy on something I felt passionate about. I just wanted to say I think it is inspiring that you decided to go back to school as well to pursue an additional degree!

    I love that you share that you are an empath. (Another thing we share.) Your “momentary state of mind” resonates with me and I think it was very vulnerable of you to share that with all of us. I know it is an extremely personal part of who you are.

    You reference the magical property of your neighbor. I just want to recognize the use of the word magical. That through your childhood eyes you were able to connect to the yard in a way that I think we lose as adults. When you describe it, for some reason, I envision something between “Alice In Wonderland” and “Narnia”. As adults I think the landscapes in which we play change, yet our truest selves still need and even crave the connection to the natural playgrounds. For three quarters of the year (as long as it is above 50-55 degrees) I like to work outside. I will move my computer out there to work because I need to be outside. As I am typing this, I am looking outside my window (less than 18 two feet from me) and I can see the woods and often my family of deer that walk by. As Kingslover said, “I consider myself lucky beyond word to go to work every morning with something like wilderness at my elbow” (Kingsolver, 1). As you said so beautifully, “It reminds me of the ‘best times’ and after some reflecting…almost all of my memories are centered some way around nature.”

    The photo that symbolizes your “bedrock of democracy” is gorgeous. You can see the strength and interconnectedness. Your observation that “people and nature are not disconnected from one another; they are part of one another” is on point! I LOVE that. To understand this is to know that your history truly is about place – wherever that place is and as a result … you are never without it, for it is forever a part of who you are. It makes me think of Shanna Tiayon when she speaks of Yasir who was fighting the town in order to have her garden, she wrote, “She wasn’t just fighting for her garden; she was fighting for her life” (Tiayon, 8). The places we are connected to are a part of our being. To take that away is to take away a part of ourselves.

    Kingslover, Barbara. Knowing Our Place. 02_H03_Kingsolver_2.pdf.

    Tiayon, Shanna B. “The New Sisterhood of Black Female Homesteaders.” Pocket,

  3. Catherine,

    It was a pleasure to step inside what you consider your place in connection to the nature that surrounds you. Although what seems to be quite difficult through a computer screen, you have managed to allow me to understand the greatest memories you have, especially in your recollection of your neighbor’s ‘magical property.’ I can sympathize with the displacement that suburban neighborhoods have caused in allowing humans to live harmoniously with nature. As for my personal experience, I grew up in a rural town in Massachusetts which used to be overwhelmingly acres of landscape, but has now found several pockets of housing developments. Although I am fortunate to still reside on a few acres of land, it is saddening to see the small groups of deer looking hopeless in the yards across the street that no longer hold woods for them to live a nourishing life. Afterall, it is quite difficult to soak in any diversity of wildlife when there is an army of houses and countless paved roadways obstructing what used to be an ecosystem filled with life rather than infrastructure. How astonishing is it that places such as this secret garden for you, allow us to displace us from stress of modern day production and capitalism but rather take the moment to soak in all the beauty and life around us that provides us a perspective on how the decisions we make are in fact affecting our ability to live with nature rather than in it. Brittany Bloodhart and Janet Swim provide a perspective on the role that cultural values play in the treatment of women and nature specifically as they suggest, “…gender empowerment mediates the relationship between hegemony and environmental health, whereas it is mutually predictive with hegemony of ecosystem vitality” (187). I find this to be an interesting perspective in this week’s topic of understanding place as we reflect on the landscapes that inform us. The places that we have chosen have connected us with nature and it is up to us to preserve these connections and spread them with other generations as outlined in Williams’ bedrock democracy. As Bloodhart and Swim suggest, gender empowerment can relieve the relationship between dominance and environmental health but it is also in relation with the dominance of ecosystem vitality. In this case, our displacement with nature is a result of the dualism between man and women, between nature and culture and it is through equality and harmony with the environment that we are able to exist as life on Earth as a whole. I bring this to your piece as you remember your own place in this garden that sets you apart from the suburban life just outside of that space. The desire for production and industrialization with androcentric values at the center, created this very modern life as we know it and it is not until we recognize the oppression this brings to nature, women and other marginalized groups that we can all begin to understand our place and become connected to nature and embrace what has always been a part of us.

    If you are interested in reading more about the perspectives outlined in the article that I referenced by Bloodhart and Swim, here is the citation information:
    Bloodhart, Brittany, and Janet K. Swim. “Equality, Harmony, and the Environment: An Ecofeminist Approach to Understanding the Role of Cultural Values on the Treatment of Women and Nature.” Ecopsychology, vol. 2, no. 3, 2010, pp. 187–194.,

    Kylie Coutinho

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