Chair Archive


Apr 1, 2017

Tom Wheeler

I quote from an article recently published in the New York Times: “A walk in the park may soothe the mind and, in the process, change the workings of our brains in ways that improve our mental health, according to an interesting new study of the physical effects on the brain of visiting nature. “ The article is based on a study at Stanford which found “ Participants who went on a 90-minute walk through a natural environment reported lower levels of rumination and showed reduced neural activity in an area of the brain linked to risk for mental illness compared with those who walked through an urban environment. These results suggest that accessible natural areas may be vital for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world.” Bateman, et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences vol. 112 no. 28 p. 8567

We now look forward to spring. Spring is a wonderful time to engage all of your senses in the outdoors. In spring we smell both the damp decomposing matter from last year and the scent of the trees and flowers. We hear the spring peepers and the melodious songs of warblers, robins, and wrens. We see the world transform day by day as the landscape revegetates. (I especially enjoy the early days with the subtle changes in leaf colors on the trees.) One can feel the sunlight, the breeze, the textures of woods and waters.

So participate in our outings. It will not only improve your physical health but should also improve your mental health.

Reflecting on this past winter, while warm, it was not the best winter in the North Country for snow sports. Both the lack of snow and periods of warming temperatures limited snowshoeing and cross-country skiing opportunities. However, the chapter appears to have managed a successful outings schedule despite these limitations. In the high peaks area it appears that many hikers continued to enjoy the mountains and it appears the mild winter made them more accessible than usual.

A highlight for nature lovers was the appearance of two unusual species of birds. The first was the appearance of a bird usually found only in remote Siberia or Arctic Ocean. This was a rare Ross’s Gull which appeared in Tupper Lake for a period of about two weeks. One count indicates that this is only the sixth time this species has appeared in New York. The second species was the appearance of Great Gray Owls in Robert Moses State Park (and other areas of the north country… at least six by my count). An important aspect of these appearances was the public interest shown in both areas. Several acquaintances who rarely have shown an interest in natural phenomena took the time to go to the park to experience these rare sights (perhaps improving their mental health).

Enjoy the spring.