Nature Inspires the Imagination
For most of my life, nature has fueled my imagination. When I am stuck inside for too long, I get cranky. In school I angled for the seat near the window, and 365 nights a year I sleep next to an open window. When I cannot be outside, I bring the outside in: jars of sand, bowls of rocks, winter twigs arranged in a pitcher.
Therefore, it is no accident that when I write, the images that surface the most have a natural origin. I may be writing about sadness, but its metaphor is a flower, or a pocket of a season. And when I am jangled from stress or fatigue, soothing comes in the sound of water, a flock of pelicans skimming over the ocean, or the dance of falling leaves.
Now it turns out that what I have always believed to be true, that this essential communion with nature brings out my best writing, is backed by research. A study conducted by the University of Kansas found that people who spent a few days immersed in a natural setting experienced a 50% boost in creativity. Ruth Ann Atchley, chair of the psychology department at UK, says, “It’s when you have an extended period of time surrounded by that softly fascinating environment that you start seeing all kinds of positive effects in how your mind works.”
We don’t all have the luxury of spending days on end in a natural environment, but even an afternoon sitting by a pond, or a morning walk in the woods can strike a spark in our creative selves. And every oasis of peace that we find can feed the springs of our art.
Guest Blogger Ellen Collins is a writer and teacher who divides her time between Vienna, Virginia and Bethany Beach DE. She is currently at work on a book of essays about living in the natural setting of the Delaware shore.