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How to Adapt to Change: Taking Our Cues From Nature

Catherine's writing reflects her life-long love of nature and gardening. She advocates for sustainability and respect for all living things.

 Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Valley

The Patterns of Change

We may not even notice, but nothing ever really stays the same. Our routines may become second nature, but the things we experience change our perceptions.

The continuous sets of ocean waves like the tides are visually predictable, but the currents vary, and the sand underneath is randomly scoured away.

Consider our natural wonders. They came from the most violent forces of nature. Mountain ranges and islands continue to be formed by seismic activity, carved by glacial movement, and worn away by erosion as nature intends while humans build cities among them expecting permanence.

Visitors flock to America's national parks every year to witness the breathtaking beauty of Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon, among others. These rugged places are evolving works of art.

Older than modern civilizations, the giant sequoias need fire to survive, and the 5,000-year-old bristlecone pines get their twisted beauty from the extremes of nature which they are equipped to withstand.

A major rock slide in 1996 and severe flooding of the Merced River during torrential rains in 1997 drastically changed parts of the Yosemite Valley. The rain-driven flash floods in 2015 did tremendous damage to Death Valley. These are examples of natural events made tragic because of the financial losses and their impact on developed areas and historical structures.

Humans are perhaps the only species which works to resist natural change, but it is not our job to prevent nor correct it. We are a part of it, and so it is with our lives. There will be tragedy and hardship, but there is beauty and joy as well. We should consider our humble place in the big picture with respect and awe rather than stress over attempting to control the process.

Bristlecone pine (left) San Andreas Fault (right)

Bristlecone pine (left) San Andreas Fault (right)

Look to Nature for Wisdom

Observe the spring garden. All around is evidence of regeneration. Colorful bulbs have sprouted. Dormant trees are unfurling their green tips. Bare roses, severely pruned just months ago, are full of promising new growth. Look at the innate instincts of seeds and plants in knowing when to sprout, bloom, and drop their leaves for seasonal sleep. We find wisdom in our natural world if we look for it.

Change abounds in each of our lives too. We say goodbye to our parents and must step forward to take the helm. We lose old friends and make new ones. Our jobs go away, and we need to learn new skills in order to adapt. Our bodies develop limitations with age or disease and force us to alter our lifestyles. This is when we look to those cues.

If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to."

- Lao Tzu


Restrained by Fear

Many years ago, I had a visitor to the nursery where I worked. She had brought in a potted patio tree because it wasn't doing well. The woman said, "It was thriving until about a year ago when it began dropping leaves. It didn't bloom as usual!"

After determining that its basic needs were being met, I examined it for evidence of pests and disease. There were no obvious signs. We pulled it from its pot and found that it was severely root-bound. When I told her that it needed to be transplanted and have its bound roots cut, she admitted that she feared doing so might kill it. Sound familiar? We do it to ourselves by resisting the inevitable.

The anticipation of loneliness, fear of failure, emotional pain, and anxiety over the unknown can be paralyzing. Some of us may even limit our relationships and deny ourselves the joys of living because we are afraid of change.

In our lives we can become physically and psychologically "root-bound." We can resist changes, but won't flourish without them.

In our lives we can become physically and psychologically "root-bound." We can resist changes, but won't flourish without them.

The Significance of Faith

Early civilizations had no scientific knowledge of the solar system, but they studied the sky and carefully monitored celestial cycles. Stonehenge and lesser places like it were carefully erected to mark the sun's movement, and rituals were held at times of equinox and solstice.

The beautiful lotus flower closes at day's end and reemerges with the sun's bright rays. It is the symbol of rebirth in Hindu cultures. The glorious phoenix, the bird which emerges from the ashes, is yet another ancient symbol of rebirth.

Both resurrection and reincarnation are fundamental religious beliefs throughout the world. The elements of nature have been personified since the beginning of human existence, and they have been the very things that continue to give us hope and confidence to face our transitions.

Keep a Positive Outlook

How do we cope with the unexpected things that come our way?

Change is very much like being transplanted. We are taken from secure and comfortable situations and placed in others which are threatening and unfamiliar. Without fearful anticipation, change can be a time of great excitement and energy, Here are some strategies to help:

  • Allow time to rest, reflect, and heal.
  • Look to faith and know you are equipped to handle what's ahead.
  • Realize that change is natural. We need it in order to move forward and grow.

For those facing life-changing transitions, consider our natural world and its ability to adapt in beautiful ways. It is the same with each of us. Accepting change allows us to move forward with a positive outlook into the next chapters of living.

© 2012 Catherine Tally


Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on February 06, 2015:

Thank you, Audrey! I always appreciate seeing you and consider re-visits the highest of compliments. All of the best, Cat:)

Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on February 06, 2015:

Hi Bill,

I have loved nature most of my life after having spent my childhood summers at our rustic cabin and roaming the mountain trails in So. California. Mt. Rainier was a great source of strength for me during my time at UPS. I didn't explore it often as you did, but I marveled at its humbling profile and chiseled beauty from my dorm windows everyday. Thank you for the lovely compliment. I am glad you enjoyed this! Cat:)

Audrey Howitt from California on February 06, 2015:

I loved this Catherine--there is a lot of healing that can happen as a result of change--your metaphors work perfectly here

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 06, 2015:

I love the spirit of this article. I have loved nature for decades now. Some of my greatest lessons were taught to me by Mount Rainier on backpacking trips. A good writer sees connections, and you did it perfectly with this article.

Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on January 24, 2014:

Good morning, Dave. Thank you for the thoughtful comment. I take it as a wonderful compliment! Wishing you a great day.


Dave from Lancashire north west England on January 24, 2014:

Nature is a fantastic teacher,and anyone who observes its changes and understands it changes, as you do, is much the wiser for it. Great read. Voted up.Interesting and useful

Kimberlie Kacan from Brooklyn, NY on October 10, 2012:

This is a really powerful illustration. It is true, fear of change keeps us from thriving and growing. Thank you for sharing this. Very inspirational.

Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on July 02, 2012:

Hello, sueswan,

always good to see you here! I'm glad you found comfort in my musings about change. I appreciate your kind comments and vote up.

Thank you! :)

Sueswan on July 02, 2012:

Hi Cat on a Soapbox

Very wise and comforting words.

Voted up and away!

Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on June 23, 2012:

Thank you, Deb. I hope you can convince that root-bound person to expand into new growing grounds! I am glad you stopped by and very much appreciate your thoughtful comments. :)

Deb Welch on June 23, 2012:

Perfectly said. I know someone who is totally root bound. God's Nature is so profound and rich. We need to appreciate it more. Useful, Awesome, Beautiful and Interesting. Thank you.

Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on June 22, 2012:

Hello, Audrey. Thank you for your kind comment. It is always nice to see you here. My best to you!

Audrey Howitt from California on June 22, 2012:

A beautiful and apt analogy--great write and so true!

Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on June 17, 2012:

Hi Peggy,

I appreciate your thoughtful comments and am really pleased that you found comfort in my reference to God as the Master Gardener. I appreciate your stopping by!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 17, 2012:

What a wonderful way to think about the natural changes in life. Seasons of the year and plant life brings this discussion and thoughts down to a level where just about anyone can relate. And then pairing it with God...the Master Gardener of all is a comforting allegory. Voted up and useful.

Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on June 15, 2012:


Thank you for your touching comments. In my younger years I always struggled w/ change but have since learned to change my perspective. I have felt energized by that! It pleases me to see how my thoughts here have given support and comfort to those who still find it difficult to adapt to the bumps in the road. I really appreciate your stopping by and am happy to have you as a new follower. My best to you!

Dennis L. Page from New York/Pennsylvania border on June 15, 2012:

Voted up and beautiful. You have given your readers a plethora of knowledge in accepting change, learning from it and even embracing it. Everything ages and it is what we do when faced with it that can make a world of difference. Do we sit in our little piles of sand and mope, gripe and grumble or do we move forward with a positive attitude and gratitude for what we have and where we are? I choose the latter.

Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on June 13, 2012:

Hi Kashmir-

So nice to see you here. I really appreciate your nice comments and am happy to hear that you will be sharing these thoughts on change.

Now crank up those Beachboys and keep smiling! :)

Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on June 13, 2012:

Hi Cat Enjoyed reading this well written hub, loved the part where you said change is very much like being transplanted,so true but many still don't like change and than wonder why they never grow .

Hope you enjoy a wonderful summer as well !

Vote up and more !!! SHARING !

Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on June 02, 2012:

Hello, Arb.

I am so glad that you enjoyed this! I am always interested in your thoughts and appreciate your stopping by to comment. My best to you!

Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on June 02, 2012:

Good morning, Gypsy Rose Lee! It's so true that the unexpected turn can be one of the most memorable and exciting. I'm still learning how to fully relax and rely on my faith w/o trying to seize control! It's an ongoing process and discipline :) Thanks for the nice compliments!

arb from oregon on June 02, 2012:

"May the bridges we burn, light our way" Where ever we end up, will be the inevitable consequence, of detours, road blocks and signs that say "no access or dead end." We may not like the sign, but, it simply tells us which way to go. What a wonderful interuption! Beautiful hub, cat, a really enjoyable read. thanks.

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on June 02, 2012:

Voted up and awesome. I let the Lord guide me through my days and yes, sometimes it's easier to just follow a familiar pattern but I've come to realize that on occasion doing things out of the ordinary to make life more fulfilling is exciting and I know the Lord will be beside me. God bless. Passing this on.

Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on June 01, 2012:

Bless you:)

Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on June 01, 2012:

Cat, I shared it on my facebook page and pinned it. :)

Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on June 01, 2012:

Thank you, TToombs! I would be happy if you shared a link to my hub. If my message helps by giving a person hope and encouragement, then it has done its job! I truly appreciate your reading and commenting. :)

Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on June 01, 2012:

Hi,Rosemary! Sometimes we need to ask ourselves, "what is the worst thing that can happen?" Perhaps we will see that our minds magnify the fear to be greater than reality says it is. Our lives would be lived more fully, and we would suffer less anxiety. Nature is a great teacher, and God is our greatest guide. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I always appreciate you!

Rosemary Sadler from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand on June 01, 2012:

What a lovely way to describe the transitions in our lives. Fear of change often holds us back, but we often find there was nothing to fear after all.

Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on June 01, 2012:

A very beautiful and striking hub. Many could benefit from reading this. Voted up, more and sharing.

Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on June 01, 2012:

Thank you,cherriquinn :) My best to you!

Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on June 01, 2012:

Thank you, Sparklea! I am glad that you like the analogy of being spiritually root-bound. It's always a pleasure to see you here, and I truly appreciate your insightful comments.

cherriquinn from UK. England. Newcastle upon Tyne on June 01, 2012:

Beautiful hub Cat. Rebirth at springtime is inevitable as is healing. warm regards.

Sparklea from Upstate New York on June 01, 2012:

Voted UP and USEFUL! Love your example of the plant being removed, it can grow, of course! and be FREE. It's so easy for humans to get "root bound" and to be afraid of change, of any sort. This is a great hub and I love the pictures. THANK YOU! Blessings, Sparklea :)

Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on June 01, 2012:

Hi Marsei,

Thank you for your very thoughtful comments! I have had an emotional week with my own low points, so this hub came from my retreat to the garden and my musings/healing there. I am Cancer sun sign w/an Aries ascendant, so I can truly relate to your tug of war! I am sorry that you lost your mother at such an early age but smile at her insistence on planting seeds before she died. I'm glad that you found the wisdom and comfort in that. I am so glad you stopped by!

Sue Pratt from New Orleans on June 01, 2012:

I so enjoyed this hub. As my writing says so obviously, I am interested in the psychology of living, being content, happy, etc. I think some of the things you said are so true, especially about renewal. Being a bizarre combination of Pisces sunsign and Aries ascendant, there is part of me that wants to stay home, read, write, work, and shut out the world. Yet the Aries wants to be out there in the middle of it all. I think the Pisces times are my times of renewal, sorting out where I'm going and coping with the current changes in my life. I'll always remember something I read somehwere and I have no idea who said it, "Change is not good or bad; it is only change." As with most things, it's our perspective. The renewal part of your hub and especially the flowers made me think of my mom. She died after a period of illness with cancer at age 53. I remember a months before her death, she was strong enough to go outdoors and plant shasta daisies in her garden. When they came up the next year after her death, they made me remember that all life continues in some form or another.

I voted up and interesting and beautiful. You gave me much food for thought today.