Nature has always been a place of comfort for me. Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, I was privileged to have a backyard full of forested land. I spent my formative years wandering trails, swinging on vines, climbing trees, and playing in creeks. I’ve always valued those experiences, even back then. I consider those times to be some of the best in my life. They represent playfulness, exploration, discovery, and freedom.
As adults, many of our lives have become constant streams of responsibility: going to work, paying bills, navigating politics, standing in line, sitting in traffic, running errands, tending to social media, responding to emails, fielding phone calls, making/attending appointments, etc. We often lose sight of what it's like to just... be.
Beyond the things I mentioned previously, life also comes with its struggles. Depression, anxiety, worry, stress, and self-loathing are things that I struggle with on a daily basis. Oftentimes they consume me and drag me down, which causes me to put up walls in order to insulate those that I love and care about. I come off as empty, vacant, and emotionally inaccessible. I become a shell of myself.
In my battles with mental health and alcoholism, nature has played a crucial role. In my early days of sobriety, I would escape to nature with my camera—because I knew that as long as I was out in nature, I was safe. I would get lost in my viewfinder as I watched the shadows and light dance across the leaves. I would immerse myself in gratitude as I watched water pour over a rock, thankful that I was able to be sober and experience that moment. Everything was okay when I was interacting with the natural world through my viewfinder—because in nature, not a single one of those things that brings me down matters. Out there, everything disappears. It's just me and the environment, existing as one at that moment in time.
Since those younger days, the things that nature brings me have expanded, and nowadays my motivation. Photo © copyright by TJ Thorne.