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It’s loquat season where I live – out in the countryside, embraced by rolling hills and sweeping vistas. On my walk, I pick a few straight from their inviting perch and pop them in my mouth without bothering to wash them. The juices from the perfectly ripe fruit dribble down my chin, and I wipe the sticky sweetness onto the shoulder of my worn shirt. I could also pick mangos. There are a good three dozen mango trees in this countryside community and, though their time is winding down, plenty still dot the landscape in all their tempting red and gold splendor. Or native guava, also in season, and so ubiquitous they bring birds of all feathers to the surrounding areas. But as this is loquat’s annual debut, I invite it to center stage and delight in it alone. Next week or next month, it will be another vegetable or fruit. And so on, and miraculously and deliciously so on, year after year.
It has always seemed intuitive to me that nature is an easy access, catch-all cure to half our modern ailments, and certainly the Zen-like key to my finally learning to check my tongue, focus my ideas and time, and be more deliberate in all that I do. I truly feel this or, as Brazilians would say, I feel this on my skin. But my intuition (sample size of one) doesn’t hold a candle to broad scientific findings that everything about being out in nature, from coniferous essential oils used in hospitals to stave off skin diseases, to exercising visual fluency and diminishing the anthrophone so as to strengthen our internal system for reducing stress and heighten our sense of joy through aesthetics, is boundlessly beneficial.
When the opportunity presented itself to keep an apartment in the city but make this masterpiece my home base, I snapped it up. I was starved for the unbound wild of nature. Through love, through marriage, I was invited to tap into this very basic, unmet urge – to regularly replenish myself through the natural world, and I latched onto it like sticky seeds to pant cuffs. It had been fifteen plus years in one or another smoggy, Latin American megalopolis, and three in a rather circumscribed city in the US, for a grand total of twenty years skirting my screaming inner monologue to, please, please, swap out the grays for peaceful variegated greens.
Just shy of two years in the countryside, on the day following a long, moonlit walk scored for a prodigious chorus of frogs and boisterous drum circle of crickets, with special effects from meandering fireflies, I pause to write out a small homage to my home. It’s warm and inviting. It’s peaceful and healthy and generous. I have lived in so many houses and apartments, six cities and three countries; I am frequently asked where I belong; and I shy from pinpointing my physical place. And now, now I find myself joyously falling into the embrace of nature’s exuberance on a near daily basis and recognizing that this same exquisite wholeness is what has washed over me in every hike I have ever taken, in every walk through the woods, all the long runs over dirt roads, and in my earliest memories of my five-year-old self catching fireflies after dusk. The peace of all the thens in nature are now my every day. And home has become the most beautiful word in the world.
* For the science and psychology behind our intuitive need to have meaningful contact with the outdoors, and for the following five words I will use in next month’s post, read “Call to the Wild: This is Your Brain on Nature“from National Geographic: