According to recent research, the most common reason for going to nature is to improve personal health. I should be nonjudgmental as to why other people go to nature (so long as they go), but this answer bothers me a little bit. Unless some of the respondents were thinking in terms of mental health, personal health is not a nature-dependent benefit. It equates a walk in the woods with a walk around the block. It says I could achieve the same results by giving up French fries and eating more broccoli. It implies that the natural elements could be taken out of the experience and replaced by a basketball court or a weight room.

This is not to say my response to the same question would be any better. If a student from an undergraduate research methods course came up to me in the woods and asked me why I spend time in nature, the first words out of my mouth would be “Challenge and peace.” The young student probably would ask me to pick one of those two answers over the other, and I would watch her face take on a confused look when I replied,“I’m sorry, I can’t. They’re sorta the same thing.” I sometimes go to nature for a challenge and sometimes for a sense of peace, and sometimes I go fully expecting both in the same outing. Anyone who has spent even minimal time outdoors understands this apparent contradiction. It is as Brian Doyle described his own opposing feelings toward time in nature when he wrote,“You know exactly what I’m saying. You have stood there, too.”

Steven Simpson