Do you feel invigorated by a pulsating green meadow? Exhilarated by the music of song birds? Are you calmed by the rustling of tree branches during a Spring breeze? Entranced by the sound of a bubbling creek as its clear waters stumble over colorful stones? If so, you are far from alone.
Our First Northwestern Vacation
My interest in the psychological effects of nature was enhanced by my recent trip to Seattle, WA with my husband. I meticulously researched and planned nearly every day—ensuring we got the complete Northwestern experience. On our day trip to the island of Bainbridge, we planned an excursion to the Bloedel Reserve.
Getting to Bainbridge by way of the Washington State Ferry was easy enough. However, to our surprise, we soon realized the Bloedel Reserve was located on the northern end of the island, and we—of course—were car-less.
Saved by Lyft
After exploring the small downtown area of Winslow (which has an impressive art scene), we were grateful to locate the only Lyft driver on the island. He told us we were his first ride since he moved there! He graciously drove us 30 minutes to our destination, and picked us up upon departure.
As we drew closer to the Reserve our surroundings became more secluded: greener trees and thicker forests. The Bloedel Reserve website encourages guests to arrive with at least 2 hours to spend walking through its 150 acres. I could have used double that time. What a picturesque garden!
Walking the Grounds
The moment we struck out on the mulch-laden pathway—cutting through tall, green grass, and into dense, seemingly untamed forest—I could not help but imagine myself Robert Frost. I began reciting “The Road Not Taken” aloud, in my best Frostonian impression, tearing up and smiling at this significant, yet playful moment of transcendence.
As I read through the Map provided at reception, I learned who was behind this philanthropic, eco-friendly venture: Virginia and Prentice Bloedel. Prentice was the heir to his family’s timber business, but was a “naturalist at heart.”
Virginia and Prentice Collaborate
According to a New York Times article written on the topic in 1995, Virginia was “originally more knowledgeable about horticulture, but her husband’s almost mystical reverence for the land eventually made him the driving force behind the transformation of the property.” This “reverence” spilled over into his sense of responsibility toward nature: “one feels the existence of a divine order…one realizes that we humans are trustees in this world, that our power should be exercised in this context” (New York Times).
True to form, Prentice turned his property into an oasis that encourages contemplation without distraction. This is seen most explicitly at the reflection pool—located about halfway through the Reserve and surrounded by towering evergreen trees.
His interest in the positive power of nature on the human psyche moved Prentice to fund early research on the subject. I located several research articles on this special feature of the mind and I will be sharing my findings in the upcoming blog post (stay tuned).
We loved our Spring visit and learned that each season provides its own special beauty. I look forward to visiting again, and I encourage anyone in need of a little R&R to do the same!
Chatfield-Taylor, Joan. “A Gardening Legacy in Puget Sound.” The New York Times, 2 Apr. 1995, http://www.nytimes.com/1995/04/02/travel/a-gardening-legacy-in-puget-sound.html. Accessed 22 May 2017.
Bloedel Reserve. Visit The Bloedel Reserve, 2017. http://bloedelreserve.org/visit/. Accessed 22 May 2017.