Growing up I was fortunate to get to spend a good bit of time during our spring and summer breaks camping in the great outdoors. My parents loved nature and every opportunity we had, we were out enjoying it. We would camp and spend lots of time hiking with some fishing thrown in. I gained a great appreciation and love of nature during these treks. My parents, as they got older, still loved venturing into the outdoors whenever they could. My mom has Alzheimer’s Disease. She was diagnosed around 8 years ago and the MRI led us to believe it was pretty advanced at the time she was diagnosed. That did not slow my parents down. My dad thought it was even more important to make sure she had the chance to be in the beautiful outdoors. Almost weekly they would hit a wonderful state park in Kentucky. They would hike a little, have a great meal, then hike some more or have a nice drive in the area to end the day.
Whenever I was in town, they would make sure that we visited multiple state parks, and of course, I always had my camera in hand. One of my favorite memories was a day at Cumberland Falls where we ended up hiking for hours in the rain (and my parents were in their 80's), but that’s a story for another day. Unfortunately my dad started having sciatica issues so the hiking slowed down, but they still loved the treks to the parks with the scenic drive around after, enjoying the gorgeous views only nature can offer. I truly believe that being able to spend all that time around nature has helped my mom tremendously through the years. Yes she has digressed, but so so much slower than expected.
I shared my photos from my travels and the visits to the state parks with my parents and the screensaver on their computer had about 200 of my photos. My dad told me that it was hard for him to get any work done on the computer because he would sit down and watches the images rotate and before he knew it 30 minutes would have passed. He said my mom would sit in front of it for hours almost daily. She would calm down and just enjoy. Wow! That is a testimony for the power of nature images. One afternoon while I was visiting, it was just my mom and I, and we were sitting in the living room. My mom was past the point (by several years) of carrying on a normal conversation, but she insisted on sitting in her favorite chair by her favorite books. As it turned out, they were books I had made especially for them with images from places we had visited together at their favorite state parks. There was also the magazine I use to share with the healthcare industry about my business and it is full of my nature images.
For the next 30 minutes she would pick up one book after another and read the little intro I made for them and then go through all the photos and comment on each of them. She would talk about how beautiful they were and then she would sing a favorite hymn about “Look for the Beautiful”. Then she would go through them again and make the same comments and sing the same song. These images of nature brought her such joy and peace.
My dad passed away not long after this. He had taken a fall and just could not recover from it. One of the hardest decisions we had to make was to move him to respite care, but this was his wish and his living will. He was moved to a room with an large photograph over his bed of his favorite waterfall - Cumberland Falls. How amazing was that! He went to his final resting place under that view and I know that it brought him peace as I’m sure it does with every patient that is in that room.
My brother and I were able to be the caregivers for my mom for about another year but then we had to place her in an assisted living facility. We were thrilled to find one that had the wonderful photographs of nature that my mom so dearly loved lining the hallways and of course we filled her room with photos of local nature that she had spend a lifetime enjoying. Yes the studies show that images of nature can make a huge difference in patients (and staff’s) lives, but I don’t need studies to tell me that. I know first hand! Yes this is a passion for me, the seeing, the capturing, and finally the sharing with others and making a difference in their lives!!
One of my main focuses is healthcare and I believe that my images of nature can help lower stress levels and blood pressure and speed up the healing process for patients in that environment, but it can also have positive effects on one's life in all environments whether corporate offices, government facilities, schools, retirement communities, senior and assisted living, and of course our own, personal homes. These are all places where the therapeutic effect of beautiful nature photographs would be welcome. It’s exciting to think that fine-art nature photographs can have such a positive effect on our emotional and physical well being that they could help to make everyone’s daily life less stressful and their trips to the doctor less frequent.