Mind Matters: The human need for nature

On our way to Washington, D.C., for Thanksgiving, my spouse and I did a quick stopover in Chester County to visit friends. While he got a chance to work with his colleagues directly (not by telecommuting from Massachusetts), I relished being back in nature. Living in a community where houses do not share walls, but where they do seem to almost touch, I long for spaces where tall trees grow unhindered by sidewalks and power lines.

Even while taking a shower in my friends' home, I was able to birdwatch. Doves, cardinals, perhaps a hawk, flitted from bushes to bird feeder. What a joyful sight.

Longwood is even more beautiful than I remember it, new with its new and refurbished fountains. And the Brandywine River still flows past Miss Gratz, the sculpture of the peacefully gazing cow resting on the grounds of the Brandywine River Museum of Art.

Water, trees, birds, deer, fox, horses, cows, meadows and woods — I miss it all. Whether we are conscious of it or not, our psychological wellbeing is deeply connected to nature. We have an interdependent relationship with our environment. If we take care of it, it will take care of us.

It was obvious to me that my new environs wouldn't be paying much attention to this interdependence. I looked around the neighborhood wondering what's missing. What is wrong? It is the dearth of, not only trees but of happy trees. Peter Wolleben's book "The Hidden Life of Trees" gives some insight into what occurs in cities and forests when the lives of trees are misunderstood.

In urban landscapes, trees have been plunked down in isolation, roots smothered in sidewalks and branches amputated for power lines. The result is unhappy, unhealthy trees that eke out an existence without the support of a family of trees such as they would have in the woods. When city planners are cognizant of the importance of trees for the mental and physical needs of the populace, they also learn that trees have needs too. Trees communicate through their roots to other trees, so they do need their family around. Their roots and branches need space.

Coming back to my old haunts in Pennsylvania and Delaware, I see the happy trees of places like Longwood and Winterthur—or just about everywhere. I miss these stately trees and am on the lookout for them where I live now. In my new milieu, I plan to support the perspective that trees and people are interdependent and need each other's care for our own well-being. Meanwhile, Chadds Ford and its surrounding can be grateful for the beauty that is all around.

* Kayta Curzie Gajdos holds a doctorate in counseling psychology welcomes comments at MindMatters@DrGajdos.com or 610-388-2888. Past columns are posted to www.drgajdos.com.

** The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ownership or management of Chadds Ford Live. We welcome opposing viewpoints. Readers may comment in the comments section, or they may submit a Letter to the Editor to editor@chaddsfordlive.com

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About Kayta Gajdos

Dr. Kathleen Curzie Gajdos ("Kayta") is a licensed psychologist (Pennsylvania and Delaware) who has worked with individuals, couples, and families with a spectrum of problems. She has experience and training in the fields of alcohol and drug addictions, hypnosis, family therapy, Jungian theory, Gestalt therapy, EMDR, and bereavement. Dr. Gajdos developed a private practice in the Pittsburgh area, and was affiliated with the Family Therapy Institute of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, having written numerous articles for the Family Therapy Newsletter there. She has published in the American Psychological Association Bulletin, the Family Psychologist, and in the Swedenborgian publications, Chrysalis and The Messenger. Dr. Gajdos has taught at the college level, most recently for West Chester University and Wilmington College, and has served as field faculty for Vermont College of Norwich University the Union Institute's Center for Distance Learning, Cincinnati, Ohio. She has also served as consulting psychologist to the Irene Stacy Community MH/MR Center in Western Pennsylvania where she supervised psychologists in training. Currently active in disaster relief, Dr. Gajdos serves with the American Red Cross and participated in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts as a member of teams from the Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.Now living in Chadds Ford, in the Brandywine Valley of eastern Pennsylvania, Dr. Gajdos combines her private practice working with individuals, couples and families, with leading workshops on such topics as grief and healing, the impact of multigenerational grief and trauma shame, the shadow and self, Women Who Run with the Wolves, motherless daughters, and mediation and relaxation. Each year at Temenos Retreat Center in West Chester, PA she leads a griefs of birthing ritual for those who have suffered losses of procreation (abortions, miscarriages, infertility, etc.); she also holds yearly A Day of Re-Collection at Temenos.Dr. Gajdos holds Master's degrees in both philosophy and clinical psychology and received her Ph.D. in counseling at the University of Pittsburgh. Among her professional affiliations, she includes having been a founding member and board member of the C.G. Jung Educational Center of Pittsburgh, as well as being listed in Who's Who of American Women. Currently, she is a member of the American Psychological Association, The Pennsylvania Psychological Association, the Delaware Psychological Association, the American Family Therapy Academy, The Association for Death Education and Counseling, and the Delaware County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board. Woven into her professional career are Dr. Gajdos' pursuits of dancing, singing, and writing poetry.



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