Sugar maples in the country. The view is free. Photo: Steve Bender

Welcome to the Grumpy Gardener, quite possibly the only website on the internet where we're not going to talk about the recent election. Grumpy knows many of you are angry, upset, sleepless, fearful, and stressed out. Let me offer one simple suggestion guaranteed to make you feel better. Turn off the TV, click off Facebook (after you finish reading this, of course!), walk outside, and experience the magic of nature.

As I write this, I'm sitting on our screened porch in the back yard. It's my favorite room in the house. It's one story above the ground and looks out on the woods. From it, I feel the cool, silky breeze of fall. I hear chickadees chattering, the cardinal's chirp, and the skittering of chipmunks hunting acorns among the oak leaves. Although our record drought (56 consecutive rainless days and counting) has dulled the luster of autumn foliage this year, the coral bark maples still shine their characteristic soft, pink-tinged yellow, the black gum wears a scarlet cloak, and the season's first sasanqua bloom has opened. Nature engulfs me and quiets my mind.

Today, the most common response to anxiety is to take a pill. It's so easy. But it's just as easy to walk outside either alone or with others and let nature be the pill. Studies show that regularly immersing yourself in the natural world is the best tonic in your medicine cabinet. It reduces blood pressure and lowers the level of stress hormones in your body. When I'm in the garden or walking in the woods, the burdens of the world lift from my shoulders. It feels good. Really good.

 

The wondrous "blue marble" called Earth. Photo: NASA

We live on the most amazing and beautiful planet in the galaxy -- the only one we know of at this moment capable of sustaining human life. And with that gift, we get everything else -- the daffodils, the dolphins, the kangaroos, the penguins, the blue skies, the sunsets, the oceans, the jungles, the mountains, the prairies, the running of the salmon, and the migration of the monarchs. We pay for none of it. We are rich beyond belief.

Today or tomorrow or next week if you can, do yourself a tremendous favor. Get outside. See, hear, touch, smell, and (if safe!) taste the bounty of the "blue marble." Rake some leaves. Pick a flower. Plant a bulb. Go on a hike. Listen to tap of a distant woodpecker.

But do not be grumpy. That's my job.

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