Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Richard Louv’s latest book, The Nature Principal: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder, discusses how modern technology is replacing nature as an ambivalent force in our everyday lives. Louv eloquently weaves together personal anecdotes and scientific theories to illustrate the consequences of losing touch with nature. He theorizes that this loss leads to a decline in health, both physically and mentally. However, Louv does not simply note these correlations. Rather, he implies that by finding our place within nature, we can gain a new sharpness that allows us to handle whatever life brings our way. Louv often uses data gathered from experiments in which individuals are entirely immersed in nature in Outward Bound like scenarios to validate his ideas. However, he also shows how even short bouts of immersion have significant effects. In one such study, individuals were given a proof reading task. After the original task, the group was divided. One group went on a hiking trip, another went on an urban trip, and the control group did nothing. Afterwards, the individuals were assigned a second proof reading task. Those individuals who went on the hiking trip demonstrated significantly improved proof reading skills after their short bout in nature. While many remain skeptic of Louv’s findings or declare them irrelevant due to the current decline of our ecosystem, Louv argues that the nature principle should guide our restoration efforts. In his introduction, he defines this principle as being "about the power of living in nature—not with it, but in it.”
The Arroyo Vista Inn continually strives to embody this concept. The giant oaks that shade our first floor balconies, the various fruit trees that predate the inn’s opening, and the butterflies that dance outside the kitchen windows are constant reminders to us of our place within the natural world. A brisk walk down Monterey Road and across the railroad tracks brings you to five large pine trees. A small dirt trail between the trees links nature with the urban world. Within seconds it is as if you have entered into an entirely different world. The trail meanders past a golf course and sends you through baseball and soccer fields. It winds past stables and parallels the concrete bottomed Los Angeles River. As you walk further along the path, signs of man made life still hover in the distance, but you also begin to see signs of wildlife, a bunny hiding in the brush or lizards basking in the sun.
On the hillside, grandiose stone staircases, distant remains of a Busch Gardens venture never brought to fruition, lead you through smaller paths. It is here where you start to key into the quiet sounds of nature. The path veers, and you can see a rare section of the L.A. River that is unobstructed by concrete. You can hear the water gliding over rocks, and see various species of small fish swimming in the shallow water. Whether you decide to take a brief walk to the recently revitalized Lower Arroyo Seco Park or simply relax on one of our balconies, the Arroyo Vista Inn allows you the opportunity to immerse yourself in nature. Who knows, if you stay here long enough you may just be able to find the sixth sense that Louv describes as a heightened sense of awareness, the natural sense.