How much time do you spend aimlessly wandering around the internet each week? A few hours? More? Don’t get me wrong; I am very appreciative that you find this blog worth aimlessly wandering around to every so often, but I’m about to suggest that you back away from the blog and go do something that will make you feel a lot more clearheaded, connected, and lucid. After you finish reading this entry, of course!
It seems obvious to me that one element of our disconnected attitude about the natural world is, well, our disconnection from the natural world. We spend, on average, 90% of our time indoors, hermetically sealed away from the outside world, which we have also modified extensively. Even when we are in a fairly undisturbed space, like a hiking preserve or open space, we no longer can tell stinging nettle from blackberry vine, finch call from robin song. Maybe we don’t even really remember how to see, hear, or smell these thngs anymore.
I’m fortunate to have a large open space within a fifteen minute drive. I visit when I can, generally at least once a month, but sometimes up to four if I’m feeling especially needy and lost. Over the years I’ve become sensitive to its seasonal changes and rhythms. Every season is my favorite when it is just beginning, but spring is especially lovely. When I’m up there, the buzzing in my head quiets, my lungs open up like doors, and the stress of living in close proximity to other people flows straight out through my shoes. It’s therapy without the couch, meditation in movement.
Inspired in part by Bill Gerlach’s recent post, I invite you to reawaken your senses this spring by going out to your nearest open space and paying attention.
Close your eyes. What can you hear? What initially seems like perfect stillness swells into a subtle symphony of birdsong all around you. Then, perhaps, you’ll begin to detect the low hum of insects, and the soft rustle of wind through leaves, a distant stream. And underneath it all, the inexorable rhythms of your own breath and heartbeat.
Take a deep breath. What do you smell? Different parts of the trail smell strikingly different. Damp earth, blackberry vines, California bay, wet rocks — down by the stream. Cool, spicy shade and the crunch of seed pods underfoot — the old eucalyptus grove. Sunlight on sweet California sage, mustard flowers — out on the open slopes.
Open your eyes. Did you ever think green could come in so many different shades? Look closely, and you might see green tips on conifers, new leafbuds unfurling like flowers on a buckeye, dewdrops on a spiderweb, whorls in a common river stone, a vibrant blue butterfly out of the corner of your eye. Everything you see is alive, or part of a system that supports life. Feel awed, humbled, and amazed that we live on such a remarkable planet.
There are lots of things you can do to be green. But nothing gives me the sense of feeling connected to the natural world, of reminding myself that its preservation matters on a deep and personal level, like taking a walking through the woods.
Is experiencing the natural world an important part of your greenness? What do you do to reconnect?