Down beneath the trees, huddled into a tree trunk crevice just my size I sat. I sat in stillness. The wind was wild about me, sounding like an approaching thunderstorm, but I was sheltered, protected by this ancient oak. As I began, my mind raced like the wind, but as I tuned into my senses I found a calmness and the longer I sat, the more I became part of the surroundings. I had been invited to sit by our guide Maren who was leading this nature connection event for women at Landmatters. I have written about connecting with trees before in this blog, and it is something that do give myself time to do, but this time it felt profound. As out there as it sounds, and without trying to, I lost my sense of me sitting in a wood - I was the wood - and it felt incredible.
When we stop to analyse this, it is not as crazy as modern thinking may lead us to believe, as we have just forgotten that we are part of nature. In a busy world, trees can teach us a lot about being still, particularly old or ancient trees. There is a timelessness to all that they may have witnessed in the long history of their lives, which can give us strength to grow and endure. They can teach us how ‘to be’, the antidote to the rest of our lives so often spent in ‘to do’. We can bridge all of these divides when we connect to trees.
I am learning to love winter - the British style of winter that is. I think I could easily love a white one but this one filled with shades of grey is harder. It is the trees that I have consciously been noticing, the shapes and patterns of the branches against the sky. The weak sun, on the days it has chance to appear, backlighting the trees and highlighting their beauty. To me it shows that light is always present, somewhere, even in the darkest of times. Still on the cloudiest days the sun is there, even if we cannot see it and we have to trust that it will return to us.
To counterbalance the spiritual (if you are still reading!) there is some good research conducted in Finland by Liisa Tyrvainen showing that to elevate our moods and to ward off depression the more we connect with nature the better we will feel, there is a dose response. Tyrvainen explains to Florence Williams in her book Nature Fix that the lowest amount of time to induce some effect is 5 hours per month, but if you went for 10 hours per month you will reach new levels of feeling better and better. This equates to just 30 minutes in nature 5 times a week. Interestingly, this is very similar figures to UK government promotions for physical exercise – double up the effects on your wellbeing and health by being outdoors. I love the Finnish word for healthy - ‘terve’ - deriving from the word for ‘hardy pine’, demonstrating the ability to withstand life’s storms. Worth stocking up on the things that make us healthy, feel better and give us the ability to survive the tougher times, which there will inevitably be in this life.
I know how good nature is for me and yet it is the thing that can take a hit when there is too much going on and a downward spiral can ensue. To counteract this, I have consciously made it my habit for a daily foray outdoors, even in winter, even (especially?) in wild weather, so I do it without much thinking or discussion about it. Whilst being more mindful, I have noticed so much more, it has really aided my wildlife spotting. Already, the axis of the seasons is tilting and there are signs of spring to spot: a tiny snowdrop there, catkins hanging on the hazel here, an increase in variety and tone of bird song. Enough time spent at my computer talking about it, the sun's returned and I’m off for my next wild encounter. See you there.
“Talk to trees. And the birds. Chat to the sky. Ask questions. You can even ask questions to your own body, which is part of nature. How are you doing body? How are you keeping mind? How can I care for you, dear heart? Go ahead and give it a try. You may be surprised at how well it works when you sense a response!” – Shamash Alidina
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