In his book ‘The doctor and the soul’ the great psychiatrist Victor Frankl tells a story which illustrates the redemptive power of a ‘deep nature’ experience, and the solace that nature can provide in the face of the grimmest of realities.
The story shows that cultivating a connection with the natural world can help transcend fear and loneliness, as well as creating a sense of belonging that can provide us with the support, comfort and companionship that we usually find in human communities.
Frankl describes a young woman in the Nazi concentration camps who was ill and wasting away. She recognised that death was imminent. Frankl continues:
“From her bed in the infirmary she could catch the glimpse of a chestnut tree in blossom outside the window. She spoke of this tree often, though from where the sick woman’s head lay just one twig with two blossoms was visible. ‘This tree is my only friend in solitude’, the woman said. ‘I converse with it’. Was this a hallucination? Was she delirious? Did she think the tree was ‘answering’ her? What strange dialogue was this; what had the flowering tree ‘said’ to the dying woman? ‘It says: I am here, I am here – I am life, eternal life’.”