By Kat Vriesema-Magnuson, Experiential Learning Manager
As I write this, Vancouver has snow on the ground, and where I’m staying right now in Tacoma, Washington we had snow yesterday. But spring is basically here, and if you look closely you can see it all around. I’ve been watching the leaf buds on the hydrangea outside my window swelling for a few weeks now, and just in the last day they’ve started to open up. The leaf buds on the Japanese maple and the neighbor’s plum tree are big enough to be visible from a distance. It’s not just the plants that are telling me spring is here. I’m very much not a morning person, but for the last few days I’ve been waking up before my alarm because there is light coming into my room before 7:00, and sunset isn’t until nearly 6:00 here these days.
We hear about connecting with nature, and how great that is for our physical and mental health, but how do you do that?
- The first, and arguably most important step, is just to notice. Look, feel, smell what’s around you. There is nowhere in the world that isn’t part of nature, so it doesn’t matter if you’re deep in the wilderness or at the top of a skyscraper. We’re all affected by the sun, wind, and rain; we all breathe the air around us.
- The second step is to remember, so you can compare what is happening over time. Writing down your thoughts and observations in a nature journal is one great way to do this. Because I’m terrible at remembering to remember, I have a journaling app that prompts me each evening to jot down what I remember about the day, like the crocuses I saw while walking the dog, or the hummingbird that flashed his magenta throat at me. I’ve also been taking pictures from my home office window and posting them on my social media daily-ish (very -ish). It’s been a great way for me to document visually and share with others. Low tech solutions like a paper journal, or just a daily “noticing nature” check in with a family member or friend are also great!
As you get into the habit of noticing, and remembering what you notice, you can cultivate your sense of curiosity and wonderment. Resist the urge to google everything – with a little patience, the world around you may just answer your questions for you, and sitting with mystery is a wonderful practice. Today, I’m wondering how long it will take for the hydrangea to fully leaf out, and if the plum will bloom before I head home to Vancouver. I’m also wondering what the hawk that was circling the neighborhood this morning was looking for, and if it found it, and where the little birds go when it gets really windy. Maybe I’ll find the answers, maybe I won’t, but they will keep me noticing to help find the answers!