One of my favorite things about being a 1 Mississippi Intern is connecting with River Citizens and hearing about their connection to the Mississippi River. In May I wrote about running along the Mississippi Riverwalk in Dubuque, IA and how the River is so empowering. While at the Dubuque Farmers’ Market, I spoke with a lady from Omaha, NE who was visiting family in Dubuque. She told me she had just gotten into running and the day before she had ran on the Riverwalk as well. “What a great place to run!” she exclaimed. One could not help but notice the excitement in her voice as she described her experience running along the Mississippi.
It is that connection to the River and nature in general that motivates people to protect it. River Citizens tell stories about growing up with endless entertainment fishing, swimming, boating, and camping on the River. I grew up along the Little Turkey River in Northeast Iowa and can relate to many of their stories. I feel like it was easier to stay connected with nature when I was living on my parents’ farm. As much as I love living in Dubuque, I have realized over the last four years that it takes a larger effort to get away from the hustle and bustle and enjoy nature.
The connection I made with nature growing up accompanies me into my adult life. I feel fortunate to understand the impact of nature on the mind and body. This summer I started volunteering at the Hills and Dales Child Development Center in Dubuque – a place for children with physical and mental disabilities. Every Thursday I take the children outside. Although they are unable to communicate, the way they turn their face to the sunlight and laugh when the breeze ruffles their hair is more rewarding than any paycheck I have ever received. This has been the most compelling demonstration of the power of fresh air.
Allowing oneself to step back from our hectic world, breathe the fresh air, and experience the simple yet exquisite beauty seems to trigger an internal “reset” button. It is necessary to protect nature from pollution so we can continue to take advantage of its therapeutic effects for years to come.
Natalie Busta, 1 Mississippi Team Leader Iowa