From the book “Ecotherapy, Healing with Nature in Mind”, edited by Linda Buzzell ad Craig Chalquist (2009).
The excerpt below is from a chapter written by John Scull (pp 144-145).
“A second client, Emma, regularly attended the group nature walks. She was brought to me by her daughter, Dorothy. Emma was in her seventies, had been diagnosed with cancer, and was scheduled to undergo surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. She was severely depressed and talked about refusing medical treatment. Her daughter was concerned and thought her mother might become suicidal. It soon became apparent that Emma had been suffering from depression even prior to her illness; neglecting her house, family, and social relationships; making disparaging comments about her old age; and expressing feelings of uselessness.
We agreed that in addition to the group nature-connecting session, Emma and Dorothy would repeat the weekly nature walks in the woods near her house and that they would do this once or twice before Emma’s next weekly appointment. Over the next few weeks, Emma actually ended up teaching both her daughter and myself the real meaning of connecting with the natural world. Every week she shared a new and more profound insight with us. One day she explained that she had felt terrible about being old, but in the forest, she realized that the older trees were much more beautiful, interesting, and complex than the young trees. People valued the old trees much more than the young ones, which were viewed as disposable. She came to the conclusion that the same must be true for people – that we gain value with age.
Another insight came to her while watching standing waves in the river, rotting leaves on the ground, and fallen logs. She came to understand that change and transformation are a normal part of natural cycles; that all living beings depend on the death of other beings. As a result, she began to view her own death as part of a healthy natural cycle.”
“Lastly, Emma and her daughter visited a grove in which a very old and damaged tree was surrounded by smaller healthy trees. Emma realized that she was looking at a family: a mature tree that had been dropping cones and the young trees that had sprung up around it. At first the old tree had provided shade and protection to the seedlings. Then its shading had motivated them to grow tall, seeking light. Now that they were strong and healthy, the older tree could peacefully decay. While she was having these reflections, the old tree was visited by a woodpecker and she realized it was continuing to support life. She said all her thinking about her role in her family was changed by this experience.”
Image source (flickr, LMHarrison): http://www.flickr.com/photos/l_m_h/3475560300