“Nature as Inspiration” was the title of a presentation I gave at a skilled nursing facility last week. The mean age in the room was probably 87. Nearly two dozen seniors who have given up houses, lost spouses, who no longer drive or cook or work or volunteer, sat in a semi-circle in a weekly session during which topics of interest are discussed, or presented.
Certainly, I know that I am inspired by nature. I knew that I would carry into the room a huge basketful of objects I’ve found in nature, images I’ve photographed of the natural world, a story or two about nature from my upcoming book, things to sniff (fresh lavender from my yard) and things to gift (handmade origami cranes).
But I had no idea what would unfold or in what manner I would present these things.
Most of all I knew I wanted to encourage the residents to participate, to find their own threads of inspiration, to engage with the outdoors and nature that I had carried into the room, and to engage with one another in a little bit of life review.
I began by introducing myself and the ways in which I encourage connection with the natural world in my work.
I laid out in the center of our circle the objects and images I had brought with me; I asked people to look at them from that several-yards-away vantage point, promising a closer-up look in a few moments. Then I carried a flat basket of some of these objects around the room so each person could select one that immediately struck their fancy.
I asked everyone to sit quietly for several minutes, using a few different senses to connect with their chosen nature item. I observed individuals sniffing, touching, fondling, eyeing from different angles, holding up to their ears the various earthy items.
And here’s what happened: for the next hour and a half (I was only supposed to be there for an hour!) these long-lived, sage seniors took turns telling stories about why they’d chosen their specific item, what they noticed about it, and how it connected them back to their lives.
What we all learned is how nature is inspiration for:
Memories: A rock covered in barnacles helped someone recall a favorite seaside destination with family, a legacy passed down through the generations.
Rootedness: A fat round rock evoked a sense of stability for a visually impaired person who clutched it inside a fist.
Story: A flat disc-like rock elicited anecdotes about skipping rocks all along the west coast as a youth.
Exploration: A two-inch thick scrap of moss generated surprise about all the curly pieces that make up the plant and how much it is like a cozy blanket.
Facing Transition: Blowing a feather was illustration of what moving into the SNF feels like, possessions culled and adjustments to a totally new way of life.
New Learning: A pine cone – especially not being sure which tree it came from – became a call to study cones in order to learn their shapes, characteristics, and to be able to identify the trees from which they drop.
Creativity: A faded, dried rose with a hint of red on the leaf edges was inspiration for a former artist to draw the textures of the object, and to resume painting.
There were so many more stories that we heard in the room that day – all sparked by some tiny part of nature held in the hand of an open-hearted being.
I am buoyed and hopeful.
All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2018 JenniferJWilhoit/TEALarbor stories. AllRightsReserved."