The Elements of Nature

This post is a bit lengthy but necessary.  And, I apologize for needing to change the theme. The other went “kaput”.

In many ancient philosophies, classical ‘elements’ are used to describe the different energies or patterns in nature on the Earth. The four elements most frequently identified are earth, water, fire, and air. Space, also known as aether, void, consciousness, or spirit, is used in Hindu, Buddhist, Japanese and Greek systems of thought. Ancient Chinese philosophy adds metal and wood as elements.

Each of the elements is essential to the existence and well-being of both the earth and all life forms upon it, including humankind.  Everything is made up of some combination of these elements, people, companies, games, plants, music, art and so much more. An integral unexpected analogy of applying these elements into everyday life would be landscape design. The elements are embedded in the human psyche and can be expressed as aspects of a garden. And so, trees, hedges, planting beds, grassy areas, garden gates, pathways, clearings, pergolas, arbors, garden huts, fences, terraces, rocks, ponds, waterfalls, fountains, benches, etc. – all link back to earth’s basic elements.  The elements of all life around us.

Please contact me if you would like to connect with someone who knows this philosophy inside and out.


The earth element is the energy of inanimate substances. Soil is the representation of the earth in the landscape. It was produced by the weathering of rock by wind and water. Soil is where life in the landscape begins and is sustained. The soil type determines the plant species that will thrive in an environment.


Water is the essence of fluidity and liquidity. Every living thing on Earth is made primarily of water. All life has evolved from water and it is essential to sustain life. Plant materials in the landscape cannot exist without water. Because of water’s link to our beginnings, the sound and sight of water in the landscape can magically transport us to a place where our spirit is restored.


Fire is the heat energy created on Earth by the energy of the sun. Without the sun, the warmth necessary to produce and sustain life would not be possible. In the landscape, the sun is essential for plant life. The amount and intensity of sunlight in a garden is an important consideration in the selection of plants.


Air is the substance that surrounds us; we breathe it into our bodies bringing life-giving oxygen. The atmospheric gases in the air sustain the living world. Plants take in carbon dioxide from the air and give off the oxygen necessary for human life. Air creates the winds, clouds, and breezes that we feel and hear. The air element is represented in movement and is the medium in which sound is transported.


The space element has numerous interpretations in the ancient philosophies. It is sometimes seen as the spatial dimension that contains the other elements. In this regard, space is very important to landscape design. The design defines the space and contributes to the perception of it. In other interpretations, space is seen as consciousness or spirit: an element not of the Earth but of the heavens – an idea or a divine thing. Consciousness in human beings allows us to separate ourselves from each other and to distinguish ourselves from other living creatures. It gives rise to our sense of spirit, of being connected to something beyond the Earth, of the divine. It is this aspect of space that we strive for in our gardens – an ability to ‘restore the spirit’.


The metal element is the energy of solidity. It is manifested in the rock that forms the Earth’s core. Rock is where soil begins, being broken down by the wind and water. Rock and metal sculptural forms provide focal points within a garden.


The wood element is the essence of vegetative living things. It is represented in all plant material on Earth. Plants, and their ability to give off oxygen necessary for human life, are essential in healing the earth.

Our human ability to apply the elements to healing is commonplace in our everyday world and this extremely powerful way of healing is sadly overlooked. There is a rich, succulent

Dr. Deb

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