A love for nature forged in the woods, on the water and on the tennis court
Growing up, Mary McClanahan spent every August with her parents and sister at Johnny R’s Family Lodge, a fishing lodge in Canada. Driving up log-lined dirt roads, they’d arrived at the big lodge with cabins, outhouses — even pigs and chickens. Mary and her sister would amuse themselves in nature all day long — exploring the woods, climbing through the remains of a small plane that had crashed there decades earlier, playing with frogs and joining their parents at the lake to see the beavers at their dam and fish as a family.
Mary’s parents shared a passion for the outdoors and sports – a passion seeded in Mary and shared now with her husband Ted.
Captain Ted McClanahan served as a Navy pilot for 28 years including two years at sea on the Yorktown.
“The ocean is so awe inspiring – indicative of peace and a higher being. I find profound peace with myself,” said Ted.
A shared love of water and enthusiasm for tennis united Mary and Ted —in fact, they play couples doubles to this day. As Mary summed up so well, “Besides hitting the perfect serve, when the sails are up and you’re going as fast as you can, nothing beats that feeling.”
Seeking to share her feelings of being in nature and with the water, Mary visited a dear friend, who was dying from cancer at Anne Arundel Medical Center, home to a Nature Sacred Place. Her friend had worked at a garden nursery, and Mary wanted her friend to be amongst plants in the Sacred Place. “She loved it,” Mary recalled. “And then we came to the stream, and we became silent and just sat. And it hit me then that this nature space was really helpful – the pleasure it brought her to be outside.”
Though the Healing Garden at Anne Arundel was Mary’s first experience at one of Nature Sacred’s Sacred Places, Ted and Mary have their own private sacred place, created 50 years ago. While stationed in Maine in the 1970s, Ted purchased a cabin on the lake within sight of Mount Katahdin. Without power or running water, the cabin allows them to truly disconnect from the hectic world and reconnect with each other, themselves and with nature.
“It’s so serene when you get there. You feel the serenity, and you feel your shoulders drop. You are ‘in’ with nature, attuned”, described Ted. To this day, Mary and Ted spend their summers in Maine, and their children stay at the cabin – even if Mary and Ted are not there.
“As I grow older, I look back on those [summers in Canada as a child] and realize how fortunate we were to have access to nature,” Mary shared. “Nature Sacred — our friends, the Co-Founders and CEO — brought this to my attention. I realized how important nature is for healing in particular for our veterans with visible and invisible wounds such as PTSD. I didn’t expect to see it and feel it — the healing power of nature. It’s so important that you’re bringing nature to communities.” And Ted couldn’t agree more.
“Give someone else that opportunity [to be in nature and experience its healing] – to experience something beyond us. It’s worth contributing to. It’s worth pursuing.”
Interested in the connections between veterans, healing and nature like Mary and Ted? Watch these:
The Green Road at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center
Dr. Fred Foote, MD, CAPT, MC, USN (Ret.) on recent research into how the military is employing nature to help returned soldiers heal.