Connecting with nature close to home
It is when we let go of our ego and put down our inflated sense of human importance that we can really connect to Mother Earth and our own true nature.Posted Feb 4, 2010
It’s easy to feel bonded with the trees and the birds and the dirt when you are camping or on a hike, but what about the rest of the time, when your life feels surrounded by cars and buildings and freeways?
For most of us, getting away to the wilderness or the beach or the desert to connect with nature isn’t a luxury we can afford on a daily basis. But with a little extra attention, you might discover that it’s possible to feel connected to the earth every day.
Below are some ideas to help you find evidence of Mother Nature’s genius all around you, even if you live in the middle of a city.
Name That Tree
Investing in a tree identification book can give you amazing insight into the diversity of the trees right in your own neighborhood or town. For example, I recently learned that the delicate tree with red berries on the other side of my fence is a Rowan, or Mountain Ash, and has a long tradition in English mythology as a magical tree. Druid staffs were made of Rowan wood, and its branches were often used as dowsing rods. And in some northern countries, the number of berries is used as a predictor of snow cover during winter. Now, when I see this tree reaching over my fence, it has added value. And it has become an interesting conversation piece when sitting on the patio with friends.
Every tree has an interesting story. A small book that is portable can be taken on walks around where you live and help you learn about the native and non-native species of trees whose oxygen you breathe every day.
If you have a pet, you have easy access to the animal world, even though your lap dog may be far removed from the jungle. No matter how well trained, most of your pet’s habits are programmed by nature, and are evidence of a connection to an ancient and wild ancestry.
For example, you might have noticed that whenever dogs meet they seem to study each other’s gestures, signs or body language before doing any action. A subspecies of the wolf, domestic dogs have learned the art of communication through their bodies. This inherited trait evolved as a way for wolves/dogs to avoid physical conflict.
Watch carefully, and you may find your little beastie reenacting a scene from the Animal Planet right in your own back yard.
Mind Your Plate
Barbara Kingsolver wrote, ”Recall that whatever lofty things you might accomplish today, you will do them only because you first ate something that grew out of the dirt.” This is a great reminder, since most of us are so far removed from the source of our food it is easy to forget that lettuce comes from a farm, not the grocery store.
Consider that the meat, the grains, and the produce on your table are all a gift of the earth, and that the soil, the sun, and the water all contributed to your meal. What better way to feel connected than to feel grateful for the nature that is on your own plate and then eat it, allowing it to nourish you and give you energy?
Great pleasure and a sense of connection can be had by welcoming small critters into your life, even if you don’t have a lot of yard. You might consider hanging a bird feeder outside one or more windows, putting peanuts out for squirrels, or planting a bush that attracts butterflies.
Inviting your neighborhood’s small animals to visit by offering them food is a lovely way to share your abundance and tune into the earth’s creatures and their habits.
Start a Collection
As you take the dog for a walk or go on a trip, consider gathering small natural objects that catch your eye or seem unusual. A collection of little rocks, seed pods, pieces of bark, sticks, and pine cones on your coffee table can serve to remind you of special places you’ve been, and can also remind you that nature is infinitely creative, generous, and mysterious. Leave a small magnifying glass alongside your collection to further invite curiosity. Learn the names and purpose of these natural objects and share this with your children and friends; your interest will inspire others.
If bark in your living room isn’t quite your style, consider taking photos of the objects you find and putting them in an album. Leave the album open on a table, and turn to a new page each day.
Tune Into the Seasons
What a reliable rhythm the earth has, cycling through the seasons with amazing intensity. You can witness and tune into the show nature puts on by choosing one particular plant or tree near your home you especially love and really paying attention to how it changes through the year. Take a photo in each season and display them together; this can also be used to make interesting and personal holiday cards at the turn of each year.
Another good way to connect with the seasons is to grow your own vegetables or to sign up for a Community Supported Agriculture food box, which is full of produce grown on a local farm in your area. Your garden or a CSA box will only contain things grown in the rhythm of your local climate, allowing you to really appreciate produce within its natural season while also teaching your family about food sources native to your region.
It seems obvious, but it is sometimes easy to forget that we are part of nature ourselves. As humans we can get wrapped up in our busy daily lives and all the great things we need to achieve, but we must remember that we are creatures of the earth, made of carbon and water just like the trees and the bears.
Like the flowers and the tide, we live our days according to the cycles of the moon and the sun. Our bodies are just as much evidence of nature’s amazing and beautiful design as the sea anemone or the watermelon vine. It is when we let go of our ego and put down our inflated sense of human importance that we can really connect to Mother Earth and our own true nature.
Kim Isley is the Treehugger-in-Chief of Trees for a Change.com, (www.treesforachange.com) an organization that plants trees as all occasion gifts in National Forests that have been destroyed by wildfire.