Joshua Kay is the co-founder of People in Nature. Josh grew up in Los Angeles, where he fell in love with hiking and fishing in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and now lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with his wife and two kids. He has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, which he practiced for several years before earning a J.D., all from the University of Michigan. He now teaches at the University of Michigan Law School, where he directs the Veterans Legal Clinic and also teaches in the Child Advocacy Law Clinic. He enjoys hiking, biking, and running, and tries constantly to manage his yearning for the mountains.
Why People in Nature? Because I remember.
I remember the shock of discovery as I crested a hill in the Santa Monica Mountains and saw vast, dancing grasslands before me. I remember the steady, rasping “shhhhhh” of the grass in the breeze, a sound both lulling and invigorating. I remember how my friend and I fell silent, unmoving, staring in wonder at the silver-green, undulating sea of grass. We were sixteen.
Long before that, I remember my first taste of snow in the mountains above Los Angeles, where I grew up. I remember fishing for rainbow and brown trout in the Sierra and standing atop Devils Postpile National Monument, marveling at the slick, glacially glazed surface and the mysterious hexagons of the lava columns. I remember Yosemite Falls and Half Dome and visiting redwoods so tall that I nearly fell backward craning my neck to see the treetops.
I remember camping with my wife in Rocky Mountain National Park and hiking to Lion Lakes, where we lounged on the shore just a little too long. The thunderstorm loomed suddenly over the ridgeline, a massive black cloud spitting fire and sending us scurrying back down the trail to get below treeline. I remember Isle Royale and Lassen and the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park. I remember the stark badlands of North and South Dakota. I remember the rugged trails, scudding clouds, and stiff winds of the White Mountains. I remember sitting with a dear friend on a huge, flat boulder by Black Pond in the Whites, listening to the rain striking the water and watching as the mist descended and lifted, descended and lifted, like the curtain between acts of a play.
And I recall “smaller” moments as well: walks through local nature areas in all seasons, collecting colored leaves in the autumn with my children, canoeing with my brother and niece through the reedy, serpentine waterway between lakes in a nearby state park, happy hours spent with my son in the university arboretum rehearsing for a Shakespeare play.
These memories spark again the wonder that I experienced in all of these places. In nature, I experience awe. Psychologists are finding now that these experiences are healthy for us. They contribute to our physical and mental well-being, and there is no better place to have them than in natural settings. There is relative quiet in these life-filled, life-giving places. There is the feel of bark and leaf and soil, the smell of evergreen and wet stone, the sound of rain on a mountain pond. Nature offers relief from the overstimulation we experience in our cities and towns even as it immerses us in a sensory experience. In the outdoors, I feel whole and in touch with my best, most creative self, and I feel connected to a greater reality.
Welcome to People in Nature, where we hope to facilitate your connection to nature, and through that, to your best self.