{spending time in nature …making the whole world kin}

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”  William Shakespeare

These aren’t easy times, and on the national as well as international stage, this past week seemed to emphasize chaos and sadness. I don’t dwell unnecessarily on the details of violence and its aftermath, but I can’t tune out. I’m not even sure I want to tune out, but I do need balance.

Spending time in nature brings down the noise. The noise in the world–and the noise in my head.

In my last post I brought Flat Stanley along to introduce one of my “new to me” favorite places to visit. Our son and daughter-in-law live within walking distance of Lake Merritt, a large tidal lagoon in the center of Oakland, California. I am so pleased that they have this lovely spot for their own “de-stressifying,” and I hope to visit again soon.


This lake was originally fed by the San Francisco Bay and the thick wetlands brought large numbers of migratory birds.  Dr. Merritt, Oakland’s mayor who owned property at the shore’s edge, proposed to turn the lake into a wildlife refuge. The state legislature voted Lake Merritt Wildlife Refuge into law in 1870, making it the first wildlife refuge in North America. I wonder if many Oaklanders know that!

Multiple bird “islands” in the lake shelter hundreds of nesting and roosting water fowl.

There are delightful gardens and a variety of other activities, but for me, the water is the feature that draws me in.



DSC_3736DSC_3737Water is my first choice for total relaxation, but for many, it’s a walk in the woods. And Oakland offered a choice opportunity to walk in the shade of California redwoods.


Not far from Lake Merritt a great forest of coast redwoods join with other evergreens, chaparral and grasslands in more than 1,800 acres of parkland. We didn’t see any of the wildlife known to live in these woods, but sightings of the golden eagle and Alameda striped racer have been noted, as well as the deer, raccoons, rabbits and squirrels.

But it’s the trees!

Coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) can reach more than 350 feet tall. The trees in this Oakland park are approximately 150 feet high. The old growth trees were nearly destroyed in the mid-19th century extensive logging supplying housing materials for the San Francisco Bay post-Gold Rush boom.

I hope soon to take you with me to California’s Redwood National Park. We can look at some of the more impressive trees then. But just to walk in the silence of these more modest groves is good for the soul.


Redwoods are very strong trees. Their root systems are shallow and extend over one hundred feet from the base intertwining with other redwoods, increasing their stability. But even a downed tree can survive. Redwoods can grow successfully from sprouts that form around the base of a tree. When the parent tree dies, a new generation of trees rise, creating a circle of trees that are often called fairy rings.

I feel lighter just thinking about the beauty and serenity of Lake Merritt right in the middle of a bustling city, and the redwood groves offering complete silence nearby. I think it’s a remarkable human quality that even visualizing the pleasure and enjoyment of beautiful natural settings encourages a sense of well-being.

In stressful times, I encourage as much positive visualizing as you can bring into your daily life. And every city, town and village offers opportunities to get outdoors for relaxation and enjoyment, sometimes you simply need to look for it!

To emphasize  the benefit of spending time in appreciation of the outdoors and the natural world, let’s re-visit the opening quote,

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” William Shakespeare

I appreciate a positive meditation in turbulent times. Breathe lighter, my friends.