You’re right, the world seems totally screwed up.  Since you are a thinking, feeling, member of our species, I need not elaborate, but I can, perhaps offer an antidote:  Try nature.   A walk through some nurturing environment goes a long way toward righting the inner balance.

This is not a retreat, it is more nearly an affirmation–a renewed alliance with the environment that supports us at every turn in many ways.

The environment New Jersey Audubon is dedicated to protect.The environment that determines which lever I push come election day. I find that any dark mood can be lightened by the touch of autumn sunlight, the rustle of leaves under foot, and the banter of birds in the branches.

Many years ago, while walking in the woods behind my parent’s home in Whippany, I chanced upon our neighbor, Roy McDowell, whose son had just been killed in a car crash.  I’d never seen Mr McDowell in those woods, on trails intimate to me.

Oddly, his face was the picture of serenity, the kind of face you see on images of the saints.  Unable to find words equal to his loss, I stopped and awaited his approach. “I understand,” he said, touching my shoulder before moving on.  “If nature can do that.” I mused, “it must be one powerful force.”

Indeed it is and the day after the Twin Towers were destroyed, I was brought to recall. Roy McDowell and the healing power of nature.

As scheduled, the Tuesday after 9-11 I met my birding workshop group at Cape May Point State Park.  It was a somber gathering.

“I know, we’re all pretty despondent,” I began, “but frankly, I can think of no better response than an embrace of nature.  Lets go birding.”  And we did.  Cape May rarely disappoints.  I’m not going to lie and tell you that walk dispelled all of our anxiety or anger.  But it did impart a sense of order and calm during trying times.  And as soon as I finish this essay, I am going for a walk.  No explanation or apologies necessary.

This Tuesday, election day, I’ll vote green, as I always do, to insure that woodland paths may always be available to those who seek solace time and time again, or just once in a lifetime, in times of sadness and need.

Pete Dunne
NJ Audubon Birding Ambassador
Author Birds of Prey and coauthor Hawks in Flight