I’ve always admired nature’s beauty: the trees, flowering bushes, green grass, and flowers of all colors, shapes, and sizes. Blaming the lack of a "green thumb," most of my indoor flowers are actually silk, and outdoor foliage is mostly maintenance free. Thank goodness my husband has the patience to remember to water the few living plants. A well-manicured yard, complete with seasonal colors and varieties, has always been a dream-though meticulously cared for by a professional gardener. A vegetable and herb garden would be great, too, as nothing beats a vine-ripened tomato, fresh dill, and mint.

I recently watched my friend’s expression as she described her garden. Her face lit up as she explained her Saturday would be spent weeding, pruning, and planting in the garden with her granddaughter. "She’s caught the love of gardening at the tender age of two!" said my friend. She then shared how she escapes from her busy work world into the task of nurturing her flowers. "When my own children were younger, however, I just didn’t have time-or felt like I didn’t have time-to garden. I guess I’ve turned my maternal nurturing instincts, not needed as much for my adult children, to plants and flowers."

I’ve talked with other busy executives who prefer to do their own lawn mowing, leaf raking, and landscaping for the same reason-its therapeutic value. Living in the Midwest, we’ve all recognized that the gray, drab days of winter contribute to a more somber mood and sometimes-borderline depression. Fresh air, sunshine, and blue skies are the best mood enhancers. Fresh flowers on the desk or gracing the dining table are uplifting as well.

Scientists now accept the theory that gardening or viewing a lush landscape promotes measurable, positive mental and physical health. Physicians have long recognized the therapeutic value of healing gardens. It’s been documented that hospitalized patients whose windows look out at landscape scenery actually recover from surgery more quickly than those whose views overlook cement. The latest research backing up horticulture therapy says people exposed to nature recovered from stress more quickly than those who weren’t-and its impact was immediate.

That’s proof enough for me of the value that recognizing the beauty in nature-as well as art, music, and drama-provides the distraction and escape people need for optimal quality of life. Creating with one’s hands is an indescribable satisfaction, just as an athlete in competition. With today’s harried lifestyle, seeking a little horticulture therapy just might be good for the mind and spirit. Even raking those autumn leaves…. AA!