A friend coined the phrase “gentle complexity” recently to describe how nature reflects to us a diverse wholeness of which we are a part. As we head squarely into hot August primaries and mid-term election season, the environment is heating up in multiple ways. One of our writers in Duluth described it this way: “The political topography up here is bananas right now.”
Is there a gentle way to approach our complexity?

As humans we tend to take a divide and conquer approach to land ownership, politics, people. We also operate as if we were superior to nature because we have developed the tools to derive our paper products from trees, extract technology bits and fuel from rock, control the flow of water, and more.

Nature, however, delivers floods, wildfires, hurricanes, quakes, tornados, and plagues. When the climate shifts, our tools are powerless against its force.

Our attempts to harness energy and chemicals largely introduce contaminants into what we breathe and drink. Indoor and outdoor pollution leads to cancers, brain development issues, asthma, and emphysema.

Ignoring nature also hurts us. An Environmental Protection Agency survey revealed that Americans spend 87 percent of their time indoors, and 6 percent in an enclosed vehicle. Our increasing stress — our need to be busy, largely inside — leads to heart disease, diabetes, and migraines. A 2015 study at Stanford found work-related stress accounts for up to $190 billion in health care costs alone.

Humans create a harsh environment for ourselves. We also pay the price.

An antidote?

Nature restores our energy, when we let it. That is one reason Amazon headquarters is creating an enormous biosphere work space in downtown Seattle, featuring 300 plants from around the world.

“Forest bathing” is becoming a wellness trend in the U.S., in the vein of yoga and meditation. It is a concept that was named Shinrin-yoku in Japan in 1982, which roughly translates to “taking in the forest atmosphere.”

After so many executives died of heart attacks, Japanese companies began to prescribe taking in nature for physiological and psychological health. The scent of certain plants and trees, for example, are thought to have healthful benefits.

My friend explained the term “gentle complexity” as nature’s ability to remind us that there is a wholeness in which we are embedded — an ever-present space where we belong.

In This Issue

The August magazine explores how our environmental and political climate is heating up, particularly around the mining issue that has statewide repercussions. It is part of an ongoing story we are telling in Minnesota Women’s Press — how do we enact change in polarized communities? 

As part of an interconnected tapestry (March), can we practice self-care (May), enjoy the communal nature of food (June), and make ourselves and others feel at home (July)?

Women continue to find ways to call out the unhealthiness of the “divide and conquer” way of life. May we allow ourselves in the coming months to also immerse in the holistic sights, smells, textures, tastes, and sounds that nature (currently) provides for us.


Reader Interaction

Our July stories by Jessica Ostrov about “Why Green Spaces Are White,” as well as Kelly Gryting’s profile of 105-year-old kayaker Pat Marble, quickly became two of our most popular stories by online readers at womenspress.com.

What you’ve told us so far in our Reader Survey about popular content categories:

1. Conscious Mind (health and well-being)

2. Go See Do (calendar events)

3. Act Now (activist stories)

4. Bookshelf (stories related to books)

5. Ism Schism (stories of disparities)

If you haven’t taken the survey yet, please visit tinyurl.com/MWPreaders

Join us at Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, and Instagram: @mnwomenspress