What Dirty Old Birds Can Teach Us About Air Pollution

Bird specimens at the Field Museum of Chicago

It couldn’t help but attract my attention; a neat row of old, preserved birds, their soft, feathery chests face-up: some were dark with soot, others by comparison, were clean. All came from an industrial area in the United States called the Rust Belt. That is key to the story. Continue reading

Trending In Health: Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing)

Most of us are well aware that a walk in the woods is a breath of fresh air; especially if you’re stressed out from big city life or the artificial glow of computer screens. But now in a growing trend, people are heading to the woods to experience nature in a completely different way. It’s called forest bathing. Continue reading

How To Create Winter Interest In the Garden

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“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure in the landscape – the loneliness of it – the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it – the whole story doesn’t show.”

~  Andrew Wyeth

I grew up near Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania in the heart of the Brandywine Valley. The American painter, Andrew Wyeth, drew his inspiration from this place, beautifully capturing the unique winter landscape in a subdued mix of browns, whites, tans and grays. My winters were painted in the same monochromatic palette, made all the more rich by the stark outlines of bare shrubbery and gnarled tree trunks silhouetted against the white winter sky. Continue reading

Christmas Tree Farm Memories

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According to the latest statistics, 2015 has so far been a big year for the purchase of live Christmas trees. This is interesting data given the fact that more and more people are turning to artificial trees for their holiday decor. Yes, I’ve been tempted, but I still prefer the smell and touch of a live tree. To me, there is nothing like the deep earthy aroma of a fresh Douglas fir to liven up my holidays. Continue reading

Ten Steps To A Happy Life

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Spring is a good time to start fresh and focus on what’s really important in life. For me, the month of April is a time of introspection. I make a mental list of what parts of my life need to be reorganized, adjusted or just plain thrown out.  Then I replenish my house with a happy mind.

Just like spring cleaning, the job is not effortless. But it always feels good once the task is done. Here are ten tips to get you started.

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Take Time, Slow Down and Smell the Leaves

There’s no better time than autumn to get outside and smell the leaves. The cooler temperatures and colorful show offer a great opportunity to reconnect with the natural world. With its unmistakable earthy aroma, fall offers us a chance to renew our spirits and to recharge.

I take pleasure in all the leafy details of the season: the delicate remains of the tooth-edged brown oak, the fiery red maple formed like a palm and the heart-shaped yellow linden. Held aloft on the fragrant air, these simple shapes flutter down from bare branches to form crazy quilts on the still-warm soil. As I walk, a crisp, crackling sound rises from beneath my feet.  I savor the heady aromas; fragrant cinnamon, orange spice and the powerful scent of dry leaves roasting in the autumn sun.

What is it about decaying leaves that summons up our deepest memories? How can one whiff of a rotting oak stir our reflection, catapulting us back into the giant leaf piles of our youth?

My view is that the answer lies not only in fall’s foliage, but also in something less tangible – its smell. More inscrutable than seeing or hearing, the experience of smelling opens pathways to a deep-seated awareness that lies dormant in us all. Untouched by human language, this awareness, once awakened, recalls the child we once were and who still exists inside us.

Floating upward through the annals of time, the distinctive smell of autumn leaves reconnects us to this child, reminding us of our own particular story, our unique pathway through life and our timeless link to the natural world.