The Art of Nature 

With the changing seasons are you enjoying heading outdoors? Will you be inspired and bathe in the forest? 

“The natural world isn’t a subset of art. The natural world is the art and the ultimate inspiration; the majesty of mountain and flow of landscapes is the muse”, says NOAH member, Dr. Deborah Early. Her solar-powered home and studio, The Art of Awareness at Bluewater Lodge, are on the Queen Charlotte Track in Aotearoa New Zealand and accessed by boat only. 

Dr. Early, who was previously a President of the American Medical Writers Association Delaware Valley Chapter, has expanded from regulatory writing to reflective writing. She has woven together her experiences, teaching evidence-based nature-connection and wellbeing for overseas master-level professionals, with her lived experiences living in a remote area on an island in the South Pacific. Her new book Forest Bathing with My Clothes On: One Woman’s Biophilic Journey of Belonging, Wellbeing and Transformation with a Path towards Adapting to Change was published last month with a virtual launch on International Women’s Day. The collection presents new perspectives on the importance of nature and culture to our identity and wellbeing, together with adapting to the future. The anthology will be essential for cross-cultural professional teams designing for wellbeing, especially those at the intersection of healthcare, recreation and the built environment. 

Dr Deborah Early posing with book Forest Bathing

“Art is for everyone”, says Dr. Early. “It is a way to express emotion. The Art of Awareness Studio was created about 5 years ago after I volunteered at a local retreat center in the US and I was then asked by an acquaintance to curate a healing arts retreat for her. This transformative retreat, which included music, dance, olfactory art and other forms of creative expression, took place in my family’s little weekend cottage which was located in a small, historic and forested artist and writers’ community in central Pennsylvania. The following year, having personally recovered from loss and a spinal cord injury, and from my own journey knowing first-hand the healing aspects of mindful creative expression and nature immersion, I developed an evidence-based wellbeing workshop series for USA physical therapy patients experiencing chronic and ongoing pain. Around that time, I also created a wellbeing program for US middle school students and facilitated a number of wellbeing retreats for carers in the USA and Aotearoa New Zealand. In addition, via my virtual studio, I offered various community support programs pre, during and post pandemic to reduce loneliness and feelings of isolation. This virtual option has broadened and is now available all year. I currently also work with architects designing for wellbeing solutions rooted in Indigenous knowledge in different contexts across Oceania and last year I hosted a local Artist-in-Residence weekend to encourage creativity with conservation and to support the wellbeing of people and planet.” 

Looking forward, Dr. Early is focused on supporting professional wellbeing designers with ways to strengthen their biophilia – love of the natural world; her article on this, with an extract from her book, was published last month in the 8th edition of the UK Journal of Biophilic Design edition on wellbeing. Dr. Early integrates biophilic art with contemplative reflection and will be presenting an ‘art centered seed and skills’ session at the upcoming Nature of Cities Festival, a global community of changemakers, mixing art, science, and urban practice to build better cities for nature and all people. Registrations for the virtual event, happening April 15-26, are currently open here. 

Noticing and Connecting with Nature - Exploring Inner and Outer Landscapes. The Nature of Cities Festival 2024. 15-26 April -- Virtual. 4-7 June -- Berlin. Virtual. Art Centered seed and skills session. Date April 18, 2024. Time 23:00 EDT (19 April at 3 pm Auckland). Deborah Early, PhD.

“We are all creative and especially with Earth Day coming up on April 22, I am particularly keen to encourage biophilic art which overcomes the modern living perception that we are separate and disconnected from nature. I recently undertook an informal, online search of ‘water cycle and humans’ and of 165 images that came up only two showed any human association and that was in the form of buildings. We are nature”, says Dr. Early sharing an example of her own blue, biophilic art poem which also appears in text format in her book. For more details please see www.TheArtofAwareness.studio.

Photo of artwork: The Art of Awareness. I am Water. Copyright 2024.