Psychotherapist Mary Pipher writes, “In most of us there is a deep hunger for contact with the natural world. Everywhere people love to garden, to work with the soil, to touch plants and make things grow.” There is something fundamentally satisfying both in gardening and in spending time in settings that were not designed by human hands or for human purposes. Time in nature helps you to slow back down to a human pace after time spent in the rush of the digital world. It reconnects you with your body and also with a world older, wilder and lovelier than anything man-made.
This experience is almost certainly available to you, but it is easily overlooked. Spectacular nature programming and vacations to dramatic and exotic locales may be marketed to you. Walks in the woods and simple outdoor work aren’t advertised. This article suggests some simple ways in which you can reconnect with nature.
Grow food. The vegetables you grow and pick yourself are fresher than anything you can buy even at the farmer’s market, and the process of growing will help you understand, notice and savor the rest of your food more fully. If you have children you may find that they’re much more willing to eat vegetables once they’ve helped to tend them. If you live in the country and have a large yard gardening is easy, but city-dwellers also have a chance. Many cities make community garden plots available to local residents. Even if you live in an apartment and can’t get a garden plot, you can grow a few vegetables and herbs in buckets on a balcony or in a window-box.
Get to know a place. Choose a small corner of your yard, or of a nearby public park–just a few square meters of ground. Go to that spot at least once a week. Sit quietly by it. Notice what plants are growing there, what animals pass through, how the light falls differently on it at different times of the day or season. Make notes of what changes. You’ll slow down enough to savor small details that you might otherwise overlook, like the changing colors and patterns of leaves as they bud, open, grow and die, or the delicate jaws and antennae of insects. You’ll also develop a habit of attention that will make it easier for you to see and enjoy the life unfolding around you in other places.
Volunteer at a nearby park. Many nature centers are constantly looking for volunteers to help them pick up trash and clear trails, remove invasive plants and monitor wildlife. Park rangers and fellow volunteers can provide a wealth of information about local flora and fauna, and also about environmental concerns.
Learn about your bioregion. You know about the political regions you inhabit, and have some understanding of your leaders, your fellow citizens and the choices that you have to make together. Do you know about your bioregion? Do you know who shares your watershed–who is directly affected by the water you consume and the things you let leach into the water; who affects you? Do you know where most of the food you consume is produced? Do you know which animals and plants are native to your region, which are invasive, which are endangered? Learning the answers to these and similar questions can help you to connect more deeply with your human and natural community.
The Shelter Of Each Other and The Green Boat by Mary Pipher, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, offer many more suggestions for reconnecting with the natural world.