A bridge to where we all belong

By Kristin Faurest

We’re in the final weeks of Bernheim’s fall appeal, Bridging the Nature Gap. If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to view the recordings of some of the inspiring and powerful discussions our staff and partners have hosted about how Bernheim is working to make nature accessible to everyone, please make the time to —  it’s well worth your time.

Portland Middle School field trip to Wilson Creek Restoration Area in early October 2017.

Lack of equal regular access to nature is a global problem — one that profoundly affects human health and wellbeing because of the loss people suffer not having the mental, physical and emotional benefits of time spent in nature. Those who suffer are, not surprisingly, often those same underserved populations who suffer disproportionately from other issues like food insecurity, the impacts of climate change, violence, and trauma. We also need to remember that connection to nature better connects us to one another. New research shows that being in nature seems to orient us toward greater concern for and connection with others. Researchers discovered that nature often inspires awe—”the feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends our understanding of the world.” Experiencing awe diminishes our sense of self, which can motivate us to be more caring and helpful toward others.

UPS volunteers working on the new Sensory Garden

One of many ways we’re working at Bernheim to bridge the nature gap is creating a Sensory Garden – a new interpretation of an existing space that we are creating in collaboration with community partners that work with the Autism Spectrum Disorder as well as the blind and visually-impaired communities. One element of its soundscape will be windchimes made of upcycled materials. Hoping to source materials, I put a call out on social media for donations. Not long after I put out that call, I got the following very unexpected note:

Dear Kristin,

I have a whole bag of wind chime materials I was saving to build a wind chime in the park with my daughter. I abandoned that plan when she passed but I know I have the bag somewhere. All of the items ring out in a beautiful ring. I would love to donate for such a cause. She and I used to volunteer for the school for the blind. Her name was Emma. She was a Highland Middle student and going to attend Atherton. Another trans youth gone too soon. Emma would be so happy if she could be here. I’m hoping when I go to the storage unit that I didn’t get rid of the bag, but knowing me, it’s still there. This project would be right up our alley. It’s exactly the type of things we liked to do.

I’m so touched by how serendipitous that my daughter’s dream could contribute to a community she volunteered for. She loved the skate park, Tyler Park, and Red River Gorge the most, but she also loved Bernheim.

I never met her, but I, too, would be happy if Emma could be there to help us build the windchimes and enjoy the wonders of Bernheim. I wish I could ease her mother’s grief, just as I wish I could fix so many other things in this world that seem broken, brutal and unfair. We can’t make everything whole again. But we can keep finding new ways to make the transformative, awe-inspiring and healing powers of nature available and accessible to anyone and everyone who wants it. I’m grateful to Emma’s mom for the profound reminder of why we do what we do.


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