Man Feels Spiritual Connection to Nature
Bryon Pulliam has been a public high school special needs educator for nearly 20 years. In that time, he has also worked in various levels of sport and recreation, from middle school athletics to professional.
In part due to his quiet reflection time in nature, he is actively discerning a call to religious life and considering becoming a Catholic monk. He is single and lives in the western suburbs.
“DuPage forest preserves really have been so important in my daily life,” Pulliam said. “There is no way I could ever repay all the gifts I've been blessed with through them!”
Here’s Bryon’s story.
Catching the Nature Bug
Since early childhood I have been blessed with people who have made nature a central part of my everyday life. My grandparents' home was right on the path at Fullersburg Woods Forest Preserve in Oak Brook over the bridge from the nature center, so I spent a good deal of my childhood exploring the woods and learning so many different ways to enjoy nature.
My mother would take my sisters and me for walks and picnics frequently at Fullersburg Woods and other DuPage forest preserves, and it is a tradition that carries on with my nephews and niece. My grammie, who lived on the trail at Fullersburg, taught me how to cross country ski there, and it is a love that continues today in the same woods where she lovingly passed on so many simple, but important lessons concerning the practical and spiritual sides of nature, as well as the importance of properly interacting with creation.
Favorite Preserve and Time to Visit
Fullersburg Woods is by far my favorite preserve and one of my favorite places in the world. It has played an integral role in shaping me throughout my life. I come to Fullersburg Woods at least 2-3 days every week throughout the entire year no matter the weather conditions.
Although I cherish the memories that I have from being here with family and loved ones, the most significant times spent here have been alone in the silence and peace of simple moments and the thoughts and emotions evoked by such an incredible place. I like to come at different times of the year in all weather conditions because each time you visit you notice something different and are given the gift of a new perspective.
When you spend enough time in preserves like Fullersburg you realize that the forest itself is alive; that it is constantly evolving and never looks or sounds the same way twice, especially throughout the changing of the seasons. Visiting in winter, spring, summer and fall you always discover a completely different place because each season has distinctive sights, sounds and smells which stir up unique sentiments.
What Brings Him Back Time and Time Again
I talk about Fullersburg Woods at length because it is central to my life, but there are so many other preserves in DuPage that have been a part of my walk with creation. I talk often with people I meet who live close to preserves they never knew existed, and I am still continually discovering new places myself.
The wide variety of landscapes offered in the DuPage forest preserve system at places like Greene Valley, Blackwell, Waterfall Glen, etc., offer a change of pace and new challenges for activities I’ve been involved in for many years. They offer such a wide array of recreational pursuits to ex plore that anyone can discover new and fulfilling ways to connect to nature and live a healthy balanced life.
Another reason I continue to frequent DuPage forest preserves is because of the staff and volunteers I have encountered throughout the years. I have met many wonderful people who truly care about every aspect of important missions like education of people of all ages, healthy ecosystems that support the overall community and quality of life for all living things.
Usually not a week goes by where I don't interact with staff who take time to discuss current projects, explain interesting facts about native plants and animals, and show genuine interest in how they can make the spaces more engaging for the entire community.
Favorite Things to Do in the Preserves
I love the recreational opportunities to run, trail hike, cross country ski in winter and roller ski in summer and in previous years to bring my dog for long hikes and swims, but I think by far the most fulfilling and important thing the preserves offer are large natural spaces to spend quiet alone time in contemplation, reflection and prayer.
These preserves really are a place where no matter what kind of day I’m having I can come and instantly feel better. They help put everything in perspective in relation to the gifts and blessings of my life and what's truly important.
I have learned how deeply linked all natural life is and how truly humbling it is to realize that I am so dependent on the interconnected reality of all living things for the balance of my own mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.
I’ve also learned how important it is for those of us who have access to nature and these types of preserves to do what we can to support programs that allow others to discover the same gifts. I've met so many people who have not had the same advantages and opportunities as I have had. Maybe they didn’t have family or other adult role models in their lives growing up who introduced them to nature, taught them an appreciation for it and its intricacies or how to interact with it.
So many people do not have access to natural spaces or any reasonable way to get to these spaces once inspired by it. We have to invest in the preserves and other like-minded organizations that offer educational programs and outreach to those who would otherwise not be exposed to natural spaces, which are so incredibly important for every person to connect with.
How Nature Inspires
Nature inspires me to try to lead a life of simplicity and patience and to seek ways to share the wisdom and love that I have discovered throughout my life from its many lessons. It has also inspired me in practical ways, like going back to school and getting my master’s degree at University of Illinois in recreation and sport.
It has also played an integral role in my seeking out and discerning a call to the Catholic monastic life. The simple quiet time in reflection in these preserved spaces, in contrast to a world that has become increasingly fast-paced and overwhelmingly loud, has helped to further reveal the importance of balance in all areas of life and the need to properly structure pursuits towards an overall wellbeing.
Favorite Nature Quote
"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”
~ John Muir
Advice to Others
My advice is to seek out time in nature alone if possible. Take a walk or find an area away from others that’s pleasing to your eye and sit quietly. Let your mind and heart be open to what you hear in the silence. Remember to always look back and reflect on your time spent there. What did you notice about yourself? What did it make you think of or feel? Lastly and most importantly, decide when you're making your next trip back!