I love my work as a public engagement specialist at the David Suzuki Foundation. That is especially true during May, because I get to meet people like Li Chen, who joined the David Suzuki Foundation's 30×30 Nature Challenge and wrote one of the most heart-warming love letters to nature I have come across. The love Chen feels from nature is similar to the love she felt from her own mother.
"Nature, your warm sunshine, clean air and water nurture us like a mother's milk. You help us grow, generation after generation, to become healthy and strong. Your jade-green forests and five-coloured flowers and grass dress up our environment in four corners. You energize us every day and give us strength to live life to the ten-full (fullest). Nature, we deeply love you, we want to get close to you and protect you. Thank you for giving us everything," Chen wrote.
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Chen is just a year shy of turning 80. She and her husband Ben, both retired university professors from China, signed up for the 30×30 Nature Challenge along with 60 other MOSAIC seniors and joined the wrap-up picnic at Burnaby's Deer Lake Park on May 27.
Apart from Chinese-Canadian elders, participants at Friday's picnic also read love letters by elders from Persian-speaking communities, many of whom came to Canada seeking refuge from war and violence in their home countries. To these elders, loving nature also means acknowledging our surroundings and not taking anything in nature for granted.
"Dear mountain, you give me strength when I look at you staying strong there, far or close," May shared. "By the sea, the most beautiful place. Relaxation comes from there, reminds me my good memories. With you — sea, I forget my pain."
Nature has a special healing power for body and soul. While much has been written about how getting close to nature can make us happier and our children healthier, researchers have recently begun looking into nature's role in helping those who have experienced trauma, especially in war zones.
Witnessing these elders — some of whom fled their own countries to seek safety in Canada — making new friends, singing, reading, doing Tai Chi and sharing watermelons and cakes while enjoying nature is touching and soothing. The passion and joy of these elders for each other and their environment is contagious!
During our SkyTrain ride, many elders made sure I knew they are already planning for their 30×30 nature adventure next year. Let's go farther and stay longer, one of the elders suggested. And I thought, why not?
MOSAIC is one of Canada's longest-standing immigrant and refugee services agencies. As the organization celebrates its 40th anniversary, it also marked the second year it has brought its seniors and staff to join the David Suzuki Foundation's 30×30 Nature Challenge.