by Maren Stark Schmidt

What do you do to find yourself when you are out of sorts? Frustrated? Sorrowful? Despairing?

If you are like most people, you try to find a quiet spot to commune with nature and seek peace or solace. Solace, a word from the Latin sol for ”sun,” meaning ”to find the sun.” We have to be close to nature to find the sun, and in the process we find ourselves.

This connection to peace is formed within each of us as a young child. Humans are born with an innate ability to constructively connect to the world around them using all their senses-seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting.

As infants, we attach ourselves lovingly to items that we see, touch, taste, hear and smell. Think of all the blankets and stuffed toys in the world, doted on for years by their small owners. As every parent knows after a bleary-eyed midnight search for a lost ”blankie,” a misplaced object of affection can create inconsolable anguish in a child.

Wherever we go in the world, even when security blankets and stuffed animals are left behind, nature is there to comfort us. The sun, the moon and the stars belong to us forever. The wind, the smell of rain, the feel of rocks, dirt and sand, the rustle of trees, the colors of flowers, the shifting forms of clouds, the prickle of grass between our toes—are there wherever we go. The call of a bird, an earthworm or a squirrel running up a tree can help us connect to that peaceful part of us.

These childhood connections to nature remain strong throughout all of our lives. Research shows that as we age, or if we are ill, we regain and maintain health faster in the geographic places where we spent the first six years of our lives.

On a trip to pick apples, my husband called his mother to ask if we could bring her apples. ”I’d love to have some King apples,” she said. ”We had a King apple tree in our yard when I was a kid.” Her first choice of apples was the kind that grew in her backyard when she was five years old.

We are meant to connect to our time and place through our love of nature. This connection to the earth creates a way for us to remember who we are and that the beauty of the universe belongs to every one of us on this planet. All we have to do is be. Even though I have been alive for over 18,000 sunsets, my favorites are the red purple pink big sky ones of my Oklahoma childhood. There is something indescribably comforting in those bold watercolored sundowns.

This love of nature formed in childhood, from apples to sunsets, gives our soul roots. From these roots we sprout wings, carrying us on the adventure of our life.

Have you taken a child on a walk today? Taste the rain, smell the sun, hear the trees, watch the wind and touch a heart.