I have always been a bookworm. During my childhood I would most often be found curled up on the sofa or in my bedroom with my nose in a book but I also remember the feeling the pull of trees and the woods on a sunny day. I felt at home with feel of the warm sun against my skin and the way the breeze would ruffle my hair and sweep the cobwebs out of my head. Growing older I, as many people do, lost touch with the fun and freedom of the outdoors and resigned myself to a life of artificial lighting, electric heat, and recycled air. Nature, though appreciated, tended to be admired from afar. I’m not sure exactly when I started to rediscovered the enchantment that nature held for me as a child. I do know that it started gradually. I began to feel the pull of the woods again. I began to close my eyes and lift my face to the sun to feel the warmth and let it seep into the core of my being. I looked forward to feeling raindrops on my skin and the air caressing me. The change was gradual until one day I was walking through a park near my home and I realized how happy being outside and enjoying nature made me. I felt like laughing out loud and going a little dance. I remember smiling so much that day that my face hurt. It finally sank in and I realized I had come home. I still frequent that park. My favorite place is the canoe launch. It stands at the edges of land and river and sky. Whenever possible I take off my shoes and wade into the water. I stand there and experience the three realms simultaneously. The earthy mud squishes between my toes as the river water swirls around my ankles and the breeze tosses my hair. It is a place I can experience a sense of peace and completion if just for a few moments.
I have also begun to do a lot more outdoor activities. As I walk or run I may happen upon what my Grandma Ferrebee called pretty places. These are places in nature that draw me to them. It may be the way braches hang on the trees, the way flowers and other plants have arranged themselves or just the feeling of the place, that acts as a beacon, but at those times I will stop and offer water or spiral some energy towards the area and any beings that may inhabit it. I find myself saying hello to flowers and animals and touching many trees as I can along the way. Every once in a while I will happen upon an interesting stone or fallen piece of wood that appears in my path. I take these items home and add them to my indoor grove as a way of honoring the Spirits of Nature that I encountered on that walk. One of the most amazing things I encountered during my walks this year was seeing 12 – 18 sand hill cranes flying in V formation. We have two cranes that visit our ponds on a regular basis, but I had never seen so many at one. It was incredible.
I think nature is something that a lot of people take for granted. They don’t really think about it. It’s just there, a back drop or stage setting for their lives. Unfortunately, this attitude lands us in trouble. When you don’t value something you tend to abuse it. Nature is not, however like a pair of sneakers that can be replaced when wear them out. We only have one. We, as a species, have already done massive damage to our environment because we see nature as something to be conquered and used to serve our purposes. We give no thought to the affect is has on indigenous wildlife and the other creatures that make this planet their home. Ultimately Nature can, and will heal herself. And part of that healing process may be that humans will become extinct. We can change, or at least slow the progression of the damage we have caused by being aware of how our actions impact the world around us and making changes to improve the affect they have on our environment. You don’t have to change everything at once and trying to do so will only cause undue stress and probably cause you to give up. I have found that I change what I can. For example, I have started paying more attention to packaging. I realized that most of the trash I generate comes from the packaging around the goods I buy and most of it is plastic and other non-biodegradable materials. Whenever possible, I make sure that, if there is packaging, that it is something I can recycle. This isn’t a perfect system, and I’m surely not perfect at it, but I have cut my trash footprint by about 2/3rds just paying attention to this one thing.
The other thing I am paying attention to is water consumption. All of the water in Elkhart comes from three ground water wells scattered around the city. Luckily we are no longer in a drought condition, but that may change. Learning to conserve water now will help ease that transition when or if, another drought hits the area. I do this by shutting the water off while brushing my teeth, doing dishes by hand instead of using the dishwasher, and using the rinse water to warm up the wash water. Do I always remember and execute the plan perfectly? No, but I am working on it and will continue to come up with small ways I can make a difference.
Nature is around us everyday. Paying attention to it, even if you are in the city, can reduce stress. Being aware of nature also leads to conservation efforts. People try to protect the things they enjoy. Small steps in awareness can add up to huge differences both in ourselves and in the world around us.