What Potential Could Sehome Hill Arboretum Have On People?


Bellingham is a beautiful place and I’m glad my school Western Washington University is in such a great town. With vast forests of the Chuckanut Mountains overlooking stunning views of the San Juan Islands across the bay, I’m lucky to be able to call this place my home. One of the coolest features of WWU is Sehome Hill Arboretum, a one hundred and eighty acre forest that sits behind Western, stretching the entire length of campus and beyond. Hundreds of people come here a day, the students love it as well as the residents of Bellingham and it’s quite a popular place. There are a number of reasons why many different types of people come here each day, but would you think a realistic reason for why some people come here is to change their lives? It might sound strange, but nature potentially could have far more purposes than we ever thought possible.

Since the first couple times I saw Western, I was so thrilled to know it had a forest so close! I have lived in the same place all my life, in a decent sized home immersed in five acres of secluded forest. Western was my top choice with one of the reasons being The Arboretum because moving here I didn’t have to give up the comfort of having a forest nearby. I’ve spent a lot of time in nature and used it for many reasons like hiking, biking, exploring, or walking my dog, the list goes on. Just recently though I’ve been using the forest to do something for myself, rather than to use it for something to do. Sure everyone comes to The Arboretum for their own reasons, and The Arb usually serves its purpose, but could serve an even greater purpose. If people could come to The Arb with a different reason in mind, nature could fulfill a deeper purpose in people’s lives. We as humans severed our once strong relationship with nature, removed ourselves from the cycle of life, and thrown off the balance of the world, which is why most have lost sight of nature’s potential. If people were able to see even in the slightest way how the forest could change your state of mind and emotion, then they would be able to see it that way in the future and be affected greater. Have you ever been studying or working and been so stressed you couldn’t think straight anymore? If so, nature might be the solution to your problem, and you might just find yourself frequently in the arb for clarity of thought and peace of mind. If you’re still not a believer, immerse yourself in this scenario and you may never look at nature the same way again.

Imagine you’re a student at Western and it’s the weekend before finals week, spring break is right around the corner and while you should be studying you find your mind wandering everywhere but your studies. You’ve been in the library for hours now, your eyes ache from all the reading and your butt has most likely fallen asleep by now. As the tingling sensation starts to travel slowly down your legs your thoughts are drowned out more and more by the uncomfortable feeling. You’ve realized at this point your production levels have drastically dropped, you decide you need a break. You finally make it outside of the library and you’re greeted by the warm sun and fresh air. For some reason the beauty of this day draws you to The Arb for a brief walk and a much needed break. As you begin to enter, the colors of the forest, and the shades of life astound you. It’s refreshing to see such detail and diversity for a change, significantly more pleasant to look at than the thousands of black words upon hundreds of off white pages. As you delve deeper you get a whiff of Pine, and then take a deep breath in. The smell is so fresh and fragrant, for that moment the wonderful aroma was all you could think about. Instead of overhearing people gossip about individuals they dislike and talk about utterly trash tv shows they love, The Arb has none of those annoyances. The sounds of nature and forest animals are so soothing to your ears, and it’s nice getting to listen to the who’s of the owl and songs of the birds. There’s a certain peaceful rhythm to these sounds, and unlike noises people and machines make, nature’s sounds are unable to offend me, or irritate me in any way. The echoed noises through the trees are just another element in the immense masterpiece which is The Arb. Experiencing all these new senses after being in a stuffy library is quite refreshing, and as moments keep passing your mind becomes clearer and you become less stressed. This all could’ve happened as quickly as the first couple of minutes upon entering the Arb, and you most likely to some extent, feel like you could return to your work again and do a far better job.

If you still don’t see how it’s possible then you’re probably thinking that you wouldn’t react that way because you’re not the biggest fan of nature, however I don’t think that’s how it works. Nature typically provides you with a vastly different sensory experience from what were used to experiencing every day in society. If you don’t believe nature holds the power to change your state of mind, then believe that the change in sensory environment has to do with that. During the days of our busy lives were bombarded by so many voices, with so many words, information, and emotion coming at you all at once it’s easy to become stressed and overwhelmed by it all. The arb allows you to take a break from all that, it’s a sanctuary to escape all that constant chaos. The sensory experience in nature is so distinct yet uncommon, you’re able to focus easier on one thing at a time giving your brain a moments break. Our brains rarely ever get to relax as they’re always racing from one idea to the next, it’s nice coming to The Arb and getting to rest my brain on one thing. Meditation brings people peace of mind, and the goal is to clear your thoughts to reach higher consciousness. An easier form of meditation is focusing on just one thing and not thinking about anything else, with it being so easy to focus on one thing or sense in nature it’s easy to see why they have similar benefits. You might not think that changing your current state of mind is changing your life, but doing so can lead to less stress, clearer thinking, and happier thoughts. If you still don’t, consider it to be changing a moment in your life that will set off a series of events, and your able to control whether or not it goes in a positive direction. Hopefully by now you’re able to see how nature has the potential to affect your life, if you don’t by now you may never see how. If you do though, that’s great! What you do with it now is all up to you.

The Arb has many purposes for a variety of people. Although it’s great for physical activity, if you let it, The Arb can serve many more purposes in people’s lives and be quite therapeutic. Sadly these purposes aren’t common knowledge, and only certain people have discovered this themselves. Although you can’t physically see the proof, were all capable to some extent of being positively affected by nature. I’m excited to see how my relationship with The Arb will develop over the next three years at Western, but it’s a frightening thought of what condition it might be in the future. Most people don’t see The Arb for its deeper purposes, usually resulting in less respect for it. There are many shallow purposes for The Arb that are reasonable, but one of the popular purposes is to use it as a place to go drink and do drugs. Although the stoners usually smoke up all the evidence, the drinkers have scattered their bottles and been cans throughout The Arb. It’s sad to go for a walk in The Arb and be able to see so much garbage, there’s not trash everywhere but if you look for a minute it wouldn’t be hard to find some. Everyone has somewhat different reasons for going to The Arb, and their all valid because this place is for everyone. That’s what’s so great about The Arb, it’s always there for us and can serves many purposes. It can do so much for us when we visit, and can even potentially change our lives. It’s our responsibility for all the things The Arb does for us, that we do one thing for it, and that is to do our part to preserve The Arb and keep it pristine.