Throughout my life going for solitary walks on the beach or through the woods has been the best therapy for whatever ailed me. Walking helps me process my emotions and clear my thoughts. Whether there is a challenging problem I need to think through, or a knee jerk reaction that I need to walk off, or deeper emotional issue I need to resolve, walking prevents my thoughts and feelings from becoming stuck. It allows their energies to flow throughout my body, maintaining a connection between my mind and heart.
More than just the walking, where I walk is also very powerful. I have come to realize that the landscapes of my youth have become imbedded in my psychic memory. They too are apart of my physical and emotional history. I have learned that walking in environments, similar to those that gave me joy in my childhood, helps restore my overall feeling of well being. I call these places my healing landscapes.
As a young child I remember running to the woods when I was upset. I would scramble onto a rock in the middle of the river behind our house, or sometimes I would climb up into a tree and perch myself in the arms of its comfortable branches. I would sit for hours, just watching and listening, only to return home when I felt all better. To this day I am still moved and comforted by trees and streams.
Both my parents are buried in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where our family had spent most of our summer vacations and where they eventually retired. Surrounding each of their funerals, I spent many hours walking the familiar beaches, allowing the wind and the waves to swallow my grief. At one point I shared with a friend how walking those beaches felt like home, almost like returning to the womb. Months later after clearing out my parent’s house and sorting through all their photographs, I found a picture of my mother sitting on that very beach, pregnant with me. The woods may be my healing landscape for day to day worries, but for the bigger issues in life, the beach is where I need to be.
Where are your healing landscapes? Think back to your childhood home, your summer vacations, or the most contented moments of your life. Was there a tree in your front yard, or a summer cabin on a lake, a mountain you climbed with a friend, or do you prefer a city landscape, with tall buildings and people going every which way.
Ask yourself, if you could be anywhere, where would you like to be? If nothing comes to mind, take a piece of paper and some crayons and draw a picture of a beautiful landscape. Let your drawing be childlike in its simplicity. Don’t plan or design it just let your drawing unfold. Does your drawing remind you of somewhere? What element of the drawing ifs the focal point?
Take some time to identify your healing landscape. Perhaps spend time this summer trying out a few, by spending time alone in their surroundings. Once you have found the geographical elements that match your spirit, seek out similar locations near to where you live. Make it a habit to go walking there whenever you need to work through something. Know that these places are dear friends you can visit time and time again. Remember to turn to your healing landscapes for comfort.