5 Ways Nature Inspires Healthy Eating

As a nature-lover, I lean towards a more natural lifestyle. I prefer to wear natural colors, decorate with natural objects, and use natural beauty products. In theory, I like to nourish my body with natural foods. So I feel like a real poser when writing about nature while artfully eating a small stack of Oreos.

Do you have an unhealthy food or beverage habit you’d like to break?

Do you want to make healthier eating a priority?

We have three more months to make good on those long-forgotten new year resolutions. It’s time to rally! Let’s hear it for more fresh fruits and vegetables and less processed sugar, fat and impossible-to-pronounce ingredients.

So how can nature inspire healthy eating?

The first step is to spend more time outdoors. Shake off the artificial sights, sounds and smells of indoor environments. Use your senses to get in touch with nature. Take a quiet, meditative walk and consider these five ways nature encourages us to make more nutritious choices.

  1. Nature’s Abundance ~ Most of us get our food from grocery stores, cafeterias, restaurants, vending machines and drive-through windows. Think about the original source of our most nutritious foods. Contemplate the miracle of food growing up from the ground and hanging from branches. Gratefully enjoy the healthy foods nature generously and abundantly provides for our sustenance.
  2. Nature’s Simplicity ~ Mankind has invented some pretty awesome things, which may or may not include double-stuffed Oreos. But when it comes to healthy eating, can anything top the simplicity of an apple? Leonardo Da Vinci wrote, “Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple, or more direct than does nature because in her inventions nothing is lacking and nothing is superfluous.”
  3. Nature’s Wisdom ~ In 2018, the U.S. weight loss industry was a 70 billion dollar market. Like so many things, we’ve made eating unnecessarily complicated. In Genesis 1:29, it is written, “Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.'” There is such wisdom in nature, and I trust it far more than any celebrity peddling the latest fad diet.
  4. Nature’s Beauty. When I take a walk, I’m shocked by the amount of litter that spoils nature’s beauty. My trash bag quickly fills up with beer cans, chip and candy wrappers, fast food containers, plastic cups, lids and straws. Imagine how much less trash there would be on our planet if we didn’t purchase the unhealthy food and beverages that come wrapped in all that packaging.
  5. Nature’s Purity. The more time we spend in nature, the more attuned we are to what we eat. We connect with the seasons and cycles of our ecosystem. We notice the artificial colors, fragrances and flavors that are a normal part of the modern diet. We find the junk and gunk in processed foods distasteful. We long for pure, clean food as much as we long for pure, clean air.

Nature has always provided valuable answers and inspiration for our nutritional health. In 400 BC, Hippocrates said nature was the best physician and encouraged a natural diet to prevent disease. The father of medicine is attributed to this piece of advice, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Easy for him to say. Hippocrates was never tempted by an Oreo. §

To Everything There is a Season

As summer turns to fall, I feel an equal sense of sadness and anticipation. I will miss warm sunny days spent outdoors but look forward to cozy chilly evenings curled up by a glowing fire. Similar mixed emotions can appear when we say goodbye to one season of life and step into another.

As we travel through our lives, we are like tourists passing through towns and villages with names like childhood, adolescence, adulthood, parenthood, empty nest, retirement and old age. As much as we may wish to permanently settle in any one of those places, we must move on.

Although seasons of life are often of equal length, do you find the journey through each one speeds up as we get older? Looking back, my first twenty years or so seem to take up the most space on my personal timeline.

The same number of years spent raising my children was a blink of an eye. Thirty years as a teacher was a snap of my fingers. It’s as if I was looking out a car window and watching it pass by in a blur.

I miss it like I miss summertime.

Then I remember a favorite Bible verse ~ To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. King Solomon employs the poetic device of repetition to illustrate the ceaseless, often antithetical, changes in life.

A time to break down, and a time to build up

A time to weep, and a time to laugh

A time to mourn, and a time to dance

Solomon reminds us there are good times and bad, and just like the changing seasons, we are not in control. The verse encourages us to enjoy each season of life, no matter what it brings, and rejoice in all of our days.

Quite honestly, I spend too much time looking in the rearview mirror. Doing so can fill me with a deep sense of longing and regret that keeps me from paying attention to the road I’m on. I suspect I’m not alone in this struggle. Perhaps that’s why Ecclesiastes 3 is a compass for so many of us sojourners. We know it as scripture and as song.

Everything is made beautiful in its time, the poet goes on to say. The carefree, verdant spring and summer of our youth fade to a season when daily responsibilities, chores and chaos scatter endlessly like falling leaves. Then, quite suddenly, our days stretch before us as empty as bare branches.

It’s fine to warm ourselves with yesterday’s memories or look forward to the future, but we are wise to show acceptance, gratitude and enthusiasm for each and every day of the exact season in which we find ourselves. §

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

My husband, Mike, is retiring from a satisfying 36-year career with State Farm Insurance this week. As he victoriously crosses the proverbial finish line, I am reminded of the age old tale The Tortoise and the Hare.

You may recall the moral of the story ~ slow and steady wins the race. The classic tale, written by a Greek fabulist and philosopher named Aesop, must hold some timeless universal truths since it has been retold for nearly 3,000 years. Aesop fables rely on the traits and characteristics of animals and natural objects to teach lessons about our very human nature.

That famous tortoise and Mike have a lot in common when it comes to being successful at work and in life. Here are ten lessons we can learn from them.

  1. Don’t Sweat the Competition ~ The hare in our story was naturally built for superior speed, but the tortoise paid no mind to that. Instead of comparing himself to others, Mike honors and hones his own strengths and encourages others to do the same.
  2. Stay the Course ~ Halfway through the race, the tortoise had good reason to give up. There are so many disappointments and distractions in life that it’s easy to veer off course. Sometimes change is for the best, but it speaks well of Mike to remain dedicated to the same company his entire career.
  3. Keep Moving Forward ~ Mike was never on a fast-track to the top, and he would never be described as driven, but he worked steadily and dependably for almost four decades. He doesn’t need more than one hand to count the times he called in sick. Like the tortoise, he dutifully kept moving forward.
  4. Enjoy the Scenery ~ One of my husband’s favorite movie characters said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Ferris Bueller, the tortoise and Mike all know slowing down to enjoy life keeps us from missing it.
  5. Slow Your Roll ~ You probably know some characters, like the hare, who react quickly and carelessly. Mike is cautious and methodical in his approach to life. He rarely has to regret saying something, doing something, or pressing send. There’s wisdom in being prudent.
  6. Don’t Burn Out ~ The fabled hare pushed himself like crazy to get ahead but then fell asleep, causing him to lose the race. Mike never let a fast and furious sprint burn him out. He wisely paced himself for the long run.
  7. Appreciate Your Encouragers ~ The illustrations in a book of Aesop fables depicts a crew of forest animals cheering on the tortoise as he nears the finish line. All of us have cheerleaders. Mike never hesitates to gain encouragement from his squad, and he always shows appreciation for the support.
  8. Stay Humble ~ The hare’s biggest mistake is over-confidence. We live in a look-at-me world that often encourages us to toot our own horns. Mike doesn’t pat himself on the back or brag about his skills or accomplishments. Like the tortoise, that makes him a likable winner.
  9. To Thine Own Self Be True ~ Just like the animals in fables, we all have our own God-given traits and personalities. Fish gotta swim. Birds gotta fly. Mike knows he wasn’t wired to be an energizer bunny and he never tries to be. Like the tortoise, he stays true to himself.
  10. Slow and Steady Wins the Race ~ As Mike celebrates his retirement with coworkers, friends and family who genuinely like and respect him, he can look back on a successful career that would surely win the approval of a wise old storyteller named Aesop. §

 

The Mourning Doves’ Call for Peace

Note: This post was written in response to a weekend marked by gun violence in our country. 

A quiet sadness hung in the air defying the bright August morning. The rising sun was still behind the treetops, but slivers of light cut through thick branches in stark, illuminating shafts. Nature seemed to know mankind awoke again to unnatural hate and violence.

Under the mysterious stillness was a low, haunting call of a mourning dove. Oo-woo-oo oooo oooo! Oo-woo-oo oooo oooo!  

A pair of doves landed on the ground, their fluttering wings breaking the strange silence. They moved gracefully searching for seeds below the bird feeders. Oddly, they foraged alone. No squirrels scurried around them. The cardinals, finches and orioles reverently relinquished the morning to the soft gray, slender-tailed doves.

In the distance another soft, slow coo was heard. Oo-woo-oo oooo oooo! Oo-woo-oo oooo oooo!  

Their distinctive melancholy song gives mourning doves their name, but the birds are not associated with despair. To the contrary, they are universally recognized as symbols of peace. Since the beginning of time, the dove has represented a transformative symbol of optimism and hope in folklore, mythology, literature and scripture. Doves are referenced in the Bible more than any other species.

Artists and musicians often turn to doves for inspiration. In 1949, the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso drew the iconic Dove of Peace-Blue for the World Peace Congress, becoming a lasting symbol of respect and harmony between people of all nations.

The mourning dove is one of our country’s most common birds. It’s found in nearly every environment and has adapted well to man-altered habitats. Yet despite their abundance, despite their well-known symbolism, despite our love for the idea of peace on Earth, we aren’t getting their message. We’re moving further and further off the path of civility, kindness and goodwill that leads to peacefulness.

A third mourning dove joined the other two at the bird bath. Noticeable was their calm and serene demeanor. They sipped the water delicately, occasionally looking up with round, dark eyes. They elegantly cocked their heads as if understanding the sacred beauty of the world and their role in it.

Just as the sun peeked over the top of the trees, flooding the new day with golden light, a mourning dove sang its pleading song of peace. Oo-woo-oo  oooo oooo! Oo-woo-oo oooo oooo! §

 

 

100 Ways to Lighten Up

It’s summertime, and the living is easy. We feel lighter, brighter and a little more relaxed than the rest of the year. Beautiful weather lures us outdoors. Day trips and vacations offer rest and reconnection. Butterflies, flowers, hummingbirds and lightning bugs decorate life with color and joy. While we do our best to squeeze out every drop of summer, here are 100 easy ideas to help us keep a sunny vibe long after the season fades away.

Lighten Up in Nature ~ 1. Spend time outdoors every day.  2. Watch a squirrel’s funny antics. 3. Listen to birds sing.  4. Watch the sunrise or sunset.  5. Dine alfresco.  6. Feel the wind in your hair.  7. Take a hike.  8. Wish upon the first evening star.  9. Pet an animal.  10. Stay in awe of our wonderful world.

Lighten Up Your Home ~ 11. Arrange a vase of fresh flowers.  12. Clean so it sparkles.  13. Let the sun shine in.  14. Give away 10 (or 100) things.  15. Light a candle.  16. Add a pop of color.  17. Play cheerful music. 18. Put everything in its place.  19. Make sure it smells fresh.  20. Fill your home with positive energy and love.

Lighten Up in Mind & Spirit ~ 21. Take several deep, slow breaths. 22. Limit news and social media.  23. Practice yoga.  24. Stop trying to figure it all out.  25. Spend some time alone.  26. Meditate and pray.  27. Read something uplifting.  28. Avoid negativity.  29. Write down the problem and list some solutions.  30. Have faith.

Lighten Up Your Relationships ~ 31. Be fully present.  32. Be responsible for your own happiness.  33. Put down your phone.  34. Give good hugs.  35. Agree to disagree sometimes. 36. Have fun together. 37. Forgive.  38. Accept each others’ quirks.  39. Don’t gossip.  40. Be a fountain, not a drain.

Lighten Up Your Wardrobe ~ 41. Wear happy colors.  42. Add a jaunty accessory.  43. Develop a personal style.  44. Have a small wardrobe you love.  45. If it’s shabby or drab, get rid of it.  46. If it’s uncomfortable or unflattering, pass it on. 47. Forget about trends.  48. Wear a cheery pattern.  49. Choose easy-care clothing.  50. Feel radiant in everything you wear.

Lighten Up with Healthy Habits ~ 51. Eat for energy.  52. Drink plenty of water.  53. Bend and stretch.  54. Go to bed early.  55. Move with a spring in your step. 56. Get a massage.  57. Go for yearly check-ups.  58. Quit unhealthy behavior.  59. Unplug. 60. Be grateful for what your body can do.

Lighten Up Your Beauty Routine ~  61. Wake up with a cool shower. 62. Wind down with a warm bubble bath. 63. Decide to age gracefully. 64. Find an easy hair-do. 65. Follow a simple skin care regimen.  66. Keep makeup and perfume light and fresh.  67. Don’t over-do anything. 68. Be skeptical of advertising. 69. Remember, beauty is an inside job. 70. And hope doesn’t come in a jar.

Lighten Up with Good, Clean Fun ~ 71. Dance.  72. Tell a silly joke.  73. Re-read a favorite children’s novel.  74. Go bowling or rollerskating.  75. Play a board game.  76. Bake cookies for the neighbors.  77. Sing your heart out.  78. Draw, paint or color a picture.  79. Watch a G-rated movie.  80. Put up your feet and do nothing.

Lighten Up in Your Community ~  81. Do your job with a cheerful heart.  82. Smile at everyone.  83. Be nice.  84. Be a courteous driver. 85. Keep a sense of humor.  86. Be a good role model.  87. Don’t take it personally.  88. Lend a hand.  89. Remember your manners, even if everyone else forgets. 90. Quietly adopt one cause you believe in.

Lighten Up with Words of Wisdom ~  91. Life’s too mysterious to take too serious. ~Mary Englebreit 92. Think happy thoughts. ~Peter Pan  93. The Serenity Prayer ~Reinhold Niebuhr  94. Nothing can dim the light that shines from within. ~Maya Angelou 95. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. ~Gospel Hymn 96. Leave everything you do, every place you go, everything you touch a little better for your having been there. ~Julie Andrews 97. Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves. ~J.M. Barrie  98. Let your light shine before others. ~Matthew 5:16  99. Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow. ~Helen Keller 100. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. ~Martin Luther King, Jr. §

 

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Being Like Children and Wildflowers

On hot summer days, children play in the lake from dawn until dusk. They do cannonballs off the neighbor’s high wooden deck shouting, “Woo Hoo!” They splash around on paddle boards and rafts without a care in the world. They endlessly climb in and out of the water, running, jumping and swimming with wild abandon.

They remind me of wildflowers that grace winding country roads ~ so natural and charming. Yellow black-eyed Susan, Queen Anne’s lace, blue bachelor’s button and purple coneflowers dance and sway in the summer breeze like happy children.

It was Thoreau who told us, “All good things are wild and free.” While I appreciate formal gardens with highly-cultivated flowers, clean lines and perfect symmetry, they are more like rigid adults. Adults who tug at their swimsuits, hold in their tummies and smooth down windblown hair. Adults who are so self-conscience they miss all the fun.

I want to be more like children and wildflowers. They remind me to loosen up a little, to be more carefree, to accept myself just the way nature intended. They encourage me to stop metaphorically pruning, weeding and digging in quite so hard and just be me. After all, I don’t want to be a bonsai tree. I want to be a wildflower.

I want to swing high into the air with my feet kicked out and my head tilted back. I want to make a chain of clover and wear it in my hair. I want to lay in the grass and watch my thoughts roll by like clouds.

Wherever summer leads you, take time to notice children playing at the park, on neighborhood streets, amusement parks and swimming pools. Be inspired by their curiosity, imagination and lightheartedness. Let their unguarded laughter and movement take you back to your own childlike nature.

Like flowers, children deserve to freely grow in safe and nurturing environments where they can preserve their bright beauty and fresh innocence for as long as possible. I think adults would better serve each other and our world if we could regain some of our guileless naivety and authenticity.

This morning I picked a wild daisy from the woods and put it in a little vase in the kitchen. I slipped on my swimsuit without any self-criticism. Then I ran down to the lake and leapt off the dock with an enthusiastic, “Woo Hoo!” §

Forever in a Day

Happy Easter, friends! I wrote a poem to celebrate this morning and every morning. I’m far more comfortable writing prose, but I was inspired by springtime, Easter, and National Poetry Month. I hope it offers you a positive message that you can interpret as you wish. Enjoy a week filled with the beauty, promise, and renewal of spring.

Forever in a Day

To see forever in a day, wake up and lift your voice to pray

Watch sunlight spread across the land, just as it’s done since time began

Feel the earth so lush and green, where brown and dormant ground had been

Hear sweet birdsong fill the air ~ Smell the flowers everywhere

 

To see forever in a day, ask for wisdom come what may

Seek timeless lessons to be learned ~ Toil for honest wages earned

Heed tales told by wrinkled eyes ~ Sing a baby lullabies

Reach for a neighbor’s hand in love ~ We look the same from up above

 

To see forever in a day, have faith that stones can roll away

Let starlight fall upon your face, older than the human race

Allow great mysteries to unfold ~ Dream of ancient stories told

Sleep peacefully until the morn ~ Each break of dawn we are reborn §