Question…How do you connect with the natural world?
Growing up I spent as much time outside as I could digging in the dirt, catching snakes, chasing lizards, watching the bees, studying ants, listening to the birds singing and learning their song. At night I would study the stars, learn the constellations and dream of other galaxies…far, far away. By communicating with the natural world on every level of my being, I felt whole and connected to all of life here and beyond.
I am grateful to have had many opportunities to see so much beauty around the country by spending four weeks out of the summer on the road with my family camping in different regions. I’m filled with many unforgettable experiences. As a child I remember the first time I saw the Grand Canyon from the north rim (Wow!) Years later while in college at ASU, I hiked down it twice. I’ve seen the Badlands of the Dakotas and Arizona, hiked the Appalachians, walked the rocky shores of Maine and enjoyed the sunsets on Key West. I’ve body surfed in the Atlantic and the Pacific, jumped over the head waters of the Mississippi River and watched its mighty waters flow into the Gulf of Mexico. I’ve drawn deep breaths from the Sierra Nevada’s to the Rockies and driven 100 mile stretches of straight highway across the Great Plains. I’m truly blessed to have experienced so much beauty.
Story-time: When camping with my family in the southwest, my dad always tied up our old army tent side walls and opened the ends so we could get the cool night air. (as in the photo above) We always slept on cots, since it’s important to be off the ground in the desert. My father and I were often the first to wake in the morning and before stepping onto the ground, we would check to see what critters passed through our open tent during the night. I remember the most exciting morning was when we not only found tracks from the usual snakes, coyotes and rodents, but this time there where cougar tracks. So cool!! I secretly wished I would wake in the night and stare into those amazing big yellow cat eyes.
I’ve enjoyed canoeing and hiking the Ontario wilderness, picking and eating wild blueberries (once until I was sick, ugh!) and coming face to face with a baby moose. Now that was a bit startling, plus mama was right behind her baby! I’ve enjoyed the bears in the Smokey Mts, alligators in the Everglades, and rattlesnakes in the desert. Then there were the hiking trips on the Highland Way in Scotland and trails along the Mediterranean in France, Spain and Italy. I breathed in the clean cool air of the Swiss Alps while looking up at the magnificent Matterhorn…another Wow!
So I ask again…How do you connect with nature? And how often? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Or less?
Now, you don’t have to travel the country or to far off corners of the planet to make the connection. You don’t even need to drive out of the city if that’s where you live. All you have to do is make a conscious effort to notice your natural surroundings.
Here are a few “how to reconnect” ideas:
* Relax and enjoy watching the sunrise or sunset at least once a week. Not only is it beautiful, it’s a natural relaxant that helps lower your blood pressure and actually becomes a form of meditation. Plus, you’re connecting to nature’s life-giving force…the sun.
* Stargazing, not so easy in the city. Look for planets (they don’t twinkle) and constellations or just let your imagine go wild. You could get a book and look for the constellations for your part of the sky. It’s so exciting to find them and learn their stories. If you’re near the ocean or a large lake, it’s easier to see the stars looking out over the water.
* Walk your neighborhood, hike a local trail and notice the different kinds of trees…can you name any of them? Look for signs of animals, insects, plants & fungus, then stop to observe. If you see any animals, stop, be still, watch and silently communicate with them.
*Take some time to learn about your bioregions. (An area bounded by natural rather than artificial borders that has characteristic flora and fauna and includes one or more ecosystems.) Here’s a fun quiz to test your knowledge. Scroll down to “Sky” for the first question. See how many questions you can answer. (I scored very well, yeah!) There is so much information on this site. Enjoy & Learn!
*Be mindful of the choices you make everyday…how do those choices affect nature?
*Take up gardening…in pots or in the ground. It doesn’t matter which way you choose. One pot is better than nothing. 🙂
*Put out a bird feeder and a bird bath if possible. Which them with your morning coffee or tea. On a hot day they are fun to watch cooling off in the bird bath. If your winters are cold, be sure to keep the feeder filled. Not as important in the warmer months since food is plentiful.
Final words: Many people talk and act as though nature doesn’t include us humans. Thinking this way totally disconnects one from our planet and all it supports. We are very much a part of nature. Homesteading is making a come back to many urban areas and suburbs. Living a sustainable way of life is reconnecting to the natural world by living closer to it with respect.
Being disconnected has nothing but negative repercussions to the human body, mind and spirit. When we distance ourselves from nature, we lose out and it becomes an us vs. them. Then we both lose. But if we take the time to connect, we end up wanting to protect nature because we’ve made it personal. Don’t beat yourself up or feel guilty, (a totally useless emotion if it lasts more than 5 min.) if you’ve been living a disconnected life from nature, just start where you are right now. Take steps to reconnect with nature in any way you can. You’ll be amazed at how fabulous it makes you feel.