Why build a connection to nature?
Having a connection to nature is important for our health. Whether that connection is the full immersion of rural living or simply seeing/acknowledging/observing/comprehending Nature in whatever surroundings are closest to you, that connection keeps us feeling “in touch” with the rest of the world. There are insects, birds, wildflowers, trees, and wildlife in every human environment. The same wild winds blow across the parking lot in a city as do sweep the prairies of the midwest. Insignificant as it may seem to one who doesn’t notice the touch, those winds offer a chance to connect with every caress. And that’s only on example. Sight, sound, smell, touch, taste all offer ways to connect. There is also the sixth sense – call it intuition, gut feelings, “knowings”… whatever you call it, when that perception is added to the mix, and acknowledged, the connection to Nature can be intense and even spiritual.
“People who are exposed to natural scenes aren’t just happier or more comfortable; the very building blocks of their physiological well-being also respond positively.”
As we become more “civilized” we tend to forget we are part of the larger whole. This whole consists of where we came from, the part of humanity that once existed on close terms with the rest of nature. We were inseparable from Nature when daily life consisted of hunting, gathering, and struggling for the survival of our species. Perhaps we didn’t appreciate it then either, but seasons didn’t pass without notice. When squirrels began frantically gathering nuts, we knew cold weather would soon arrive. We paid attention as the wheel of time turned. Nowadays most of us aren’t on a critical schedule just to survive and our hunter/gatherer activities consist more of going to jobs and stopping at grocery stores on the way home. That’s where the disconnect started, because although we’re still part of the larger whole we don’t notice it so much anymore.
You’d be surprised how many children (or even adults!) have never seen a blackberry bush. They might recognize the juicy fruit as edible because they’ve seen them on television or at the grocery store, but have no idea about it other than that. Far more common is the disconnection between the hamburger on the plate and the cow it once was in a pasture. Or perhaps that particular cow never saw a blade of grass and had been raised entirely on man-made pellets, and so it too would have been disconnected.
There are birds and plants and butterflies in the city. Mankind itself is nature. If you feel separated, it’s only important to recognize the strands of the web that connects us all in order to make the first step in building your connection to nature. And Wild Ozark is here to give you a vicarious connection to nature through our life in the Ozarks, if you want it.
Technological Substitutes for Nature
From the University of Washington College of the Environment’s “Green Cities: Good Health” website: When comparing subjects’ reactions in windowless offices with and without plasma TV “windows” showing natural scenes, participants preferred the offices with plasma-display windows and noted increased psychological well-being and cognitive functioning as a result of this connection to the natural world.38 – Kahn Jr., P.H., R.L. Severson, and J.H. Ruckert. 2009. The Human Relation with Nature and Technological Nature. Current Directions in Psychological Science 18, 1: 37.
There are other studies, however, that show technology is not an ideal substitute for a true, in person, connection to nature. If at all possible, it’s best to get one-on-one time with Nature. That’s not always possible, though. So, with this in mind, I’ve drawn together some of my favorite ways to reconnect when I’m not actually physically interacting with nature. Reading, writing, listening to certain music and looking through my photography (usually while I’m writing an article, book or blog post) do a great job for me.
Connection to nature: Resources to help
Reconnecting can be started as simply as making contact with the ground. I don’t know exactly why, but touching the earth with the bare souls of my feet helps me to feel connected. I do this most easily when I’m working in my garden, and I almost always take off my shoes when I’m there. The ground is so rocky everywhere else and my feet are too tender to tolerate that long anywhere except in the garden. See if you can find a patch of ground that isn’t covered with floors or concrete and allow yourself to feel the Earth’s energy as it rises through your body. It can be exhilarating if you open yourself to the flow of that energy.
Learn the names of the plants, animals, insects, clouds or weather patterns, fungi, rocks, soil types, or even the bacteria that surround you. When you begin to recognize them on sight (or in the case of microscopic things like bacteria, on recognition of colonies and effects they produce) you’ll begin to understand them and they’ll begin to feel more like friends. At the very least they’ll begin to feel like fellow passengers on the Earth. This is a common bond we share with everything thing else on Earth.
After you learn the names, you might become interested in studying something more in depth.
If nothing else, reading and looking at photos can help.
Here are some resources from my own sites. Below the photos you’ll find links to the articles I find across the websites that have to do with nature and our need to be connected.
I have a new website devoted only to nature sketching: Wild Ozark Nature Journal. Daily sketching and journaling is a great way to reconnect. You don’t have to live in the country to do this, either. A leaf on the sidewalk is a great subject!
The section header takes you to the archive of posts tagged with “nature” at my blog. Below are listed some of my favorite posts and pages from my blog that I think you’ll enjoy.
- Symbols of Warmth and Sustenance (photos from a foggy morning in November)
- An Ode to Nature (poem)
- First Thoughts (Human Nature)
- Frosty Hills (Nature)
- Broomsedge, Not Fescue (Nature, Writing)
- Between Autumn & Winter: A Liminal Space (Nature, with lots of photos)
I have a new book on getting to know the common plants that grow in eastern/southeastern United States. The first one is now published and there are more in the works. Each one focuses only on ten plants, so it’s not an overwhelming amount of information and they’re geared for beginners. I have several books on the topic of American ginseng and plants that grow in ginseng habitat. The most recent ones picture books highlighting the beauty of ginseng habitat, which is something any nature-lover will appreciate. I have ideas for more picture books featuring a more general focus on nature and beauty of the Ozark woodlands and backroads. The section heading above is a hyperlink and will bring you to my book page if you’d like to take a look.
Here’s the link to my short fantasy stories set in the Ozarks. No Qualms is the latest story. It is set at Hobbs State Park in northwest Arkansas and features the use of bloodroot as a plant ally. It’s a fantasy story. At my fiction website I have a some 100-word flash fiction stories (still working on uploading them), all somehow influenced by my life here in the wild. The section header takes you to my fantasy site.
Do Yoga or Exercise Outdoors
Marianne Taylor of Goin Native Therapeutic Gardens invites others to join her under the trees in Dana Point, CA. This is a wonderful way to interact with and build a connection to Nature. From an article in her local newspaper:
Spending time in the opulence of nature can be a salve for healing, connecting and transforming the mind and body. The simple act of getting away and allowing for a bit of quietness in nature can open your senses to an entirely different symphony that often plays in the background of our busy lives. – http://www.danapointtimes.com/dirt-therapy-connecting-with-your-true-nature/
I think just looking at photos of nature can often help a person feel reconnected to nature.
Here’s a few to get you started. I’m always posting photos in the blog:
Headlines of other articles from other sites about the importance of our connection to Nature
- Yoga under the Trees: http://www.danapointtimes.com/dirt-therapy-connecting-with-your-true-nature/
- How do you put a monetary value on nature? http://www.mprnews.org/story/2015/10/13/bcst-value-of-nature
- Finding Nature Again with my Children http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2015/10/13/finding-nature-again-with-my-children/
- Conserving for Nature’s Sake or Our Own? by Allison Mills at Pys.org
- ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ Might Be Made Up, But The Health Benefits Of Being Outside Are Real – by Lindsay Holmes
- Beyond Greenspace: How can nature create healthier and wealthier places? (An event, but the intro is thought-provoking)
- Vibrations, Noise and the Human Experience – at Sustainable for a Future (excellent article) by Amos Carine
- Why We Must Reconnect with Nature – The Earth Institute, Columbia University
- 5 Ways to Reconnect with Nature – Mind Body Green
- Reconnecting with Nature and Our Environment – Pachamama Alliance
- Green Cities: Good Health – University of Washington
- Liverpool to Examine Sustainability of Green Space – Liverpool Express
- Paul Stametes – How Mushrooms can Save Bees and Our Food Supply (Paul Stametes is a wealth of information on the importance of fungi)
- Track Wild Food Growing in Cities – Urban Homestead Honey
- For Your Mental Health, Get Back in Touch with Nature – www.theage.com.au
- Druids and Nature – By Barry Cunliffe at Oxford University’s blog (the topic of Druidry is an ongoing interest of mine)
- Nature Is Speaking: Videos Bring A Different Approach To Environmental Awareness
- Nature is Speaking (the source for the videos mentioned in the above link)
- Out of Touch with Nature – this is an article about a disturbing trend I can’t help but feel has an ulterior purpose.
- Being in Nature Brings Health Benefits – a great list of benefits!
- Pacific Spirit: Heeding the Call of Nature – an article about how Vancouver residents find spiritual connection in nature.
- The Permaculture Research Institute
- ICE – International Community for Ecopsychology
- Show Me Oz – a very informative Ozark based site
If you have ideas for how people can reconnect to nature, favorite websites or news headlines/links share them in the comments below. Thank you!