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Appreciating Nature Iana Davis -- Misericordia University

In my journey for a better understanding of society, I discovered just how important it was to be more aware of my surroundings. In today’s world, we depend on technology almost as much as we need air to breath. Its all started with a suggestion from a friend that brought me and four others to Ricketts Glen State Park. This beautiful 13,050 acre state park is home to 22 incredible waterfalls and a seven mile-long hike, which happened to be the first challenge for the group.

“ Almost immediately following us beginning the trail, we noticed that there was no cell service and although it was alarming at first, it became the best thing that could have happened because it allowed for peace and quiet, actually laughing and talking with one another, and being able to really take in the beauty of the waterfalls and environment that surrounds us.`` my friend Habrienne Louchie said.

We spent over six hours hiking to the top and back down stopping to take in what mother nature gave us and to complain about the pain in our feet from the hike. It was a complete disconnect from the world as it was just us and the other small groups of people who existed in that space. The waterfalls seemed to just pull you in to get a close up and release some tension.

"The natural world presents countless health benefits, for example forest can encourage physical and mental well- being". (cite)

"Nature experience includes individuals’ perceptions and/or interactions with stimuli from the natural world".(cite)

It was incredible to see how willing we all were to dive deeper and walk in the waters of the falls and sit upon the damp stones. When we stopped for breaks, everyone took time to self-reflect or be alone in that moment, and I was honored to be there with my camera. It was nice to connect with my friends on a different level, and it was nice to “reset” before school came back around, but why stop there?

I was inspired by how much we had to depend on our skills of communication and being present to get us through the hike. I questioned why we do not do this more often and challenged my friends to not only do the hike again, but to chase after that feeling of freedom and relief we felt in the woods.

My friend Yamilex Rodriguez said, “It felt good to be surrounded by such beauty and feel at peace instead of the pressures of life and false social media idols our generation encounters. Moving forward, it has allowed me to disconnect from my phone far more often and enjoy the true values life has to offer.”

What pushed us more was the idea of doing this seven mile hike at least one time, just to say we did it. My friends and I created this goal to tackle that hike with no man or woman left behind, and we tackled fears and stepped out of our comfort zone. Becoming one with nature and not disturbing the peace within the forest, and it allowed for healing vibes and a true freeing feeling we could not find on campus.

I can faintly remember the last time I went outside and observed the world around me and all its issues, and it made me concerned. I wanted to capture the hike in a way that was personal and intuitive for everyone, and I hope it pushes people to that next step: to go outside and become more aware and concerned about our earth, but we have destroyed our forest and it shows. The trees in the park come from the “southern and northern hardwood types”, creating a unique touch to the environment. In 1993, “the park became a National area to be protected and maintained in its natural state”, making it the perfect location to destress and be impressed with nature work.

"Mental health challenges are perhaps the most overlooked consequences of climate change".(cite)

Photography has allowed me to capture the world through my own lens, so I invite everyone nationwide to fall back in love with nature. I wish social media was filled with more images of solutions instead of judgment and trends. When I look at the world, I see so much more for its people, but I also see the people focused on other social barriers. I realize the disconnect from nature in our society and I understand this feeling of time getting away from us, but we owe it to ourselves to take care of this earth.

Credits:

Iana D.