As I write to you, I’m sitting outside in our pocket of the city, listening to birds begin their chirping and watching the sunlight begin to brighten the sky. Though we live in an industrial city, I’m grateful for the pocket of nature we’ve created for ourselves. It’s never far from my mind that this land was once a forest populated by First Peoples who lived in greater harmony with the land. Though I live in this now-industrial city in a capitalistic society, nature is still here. Nature comes from God. Following the breath of nature puts us in touch with the heart of God.
Growing up, I did not know how out of touch I was with nature until I learned how to be in touch with it. My stepdad in particular taught me so much about being in touch with trees and all things growing, and how to have a true respect for the land. He taught me about the four directions, plants to eat and use, how to plant seeds with care and love, and how to care for and be in touch with the earth. Until that time I had such a profound disconnection from nature that mirrored my disconnection from myself and my heart.
Environmental news these days can be devastating, but it is not the end. We are still here. We still have a chance each day to connect and care for nature. If you live in a city, is there are park nearby? Can you visit public lands? Plant beautiful houseplants? I find the most effective connection I make to nature is when I care for the small land around me by gardening and looking after the birds that make their homes in the trees around us. Let nature guide you by spending time in whatever natural habitat you can get to. You will feel your heart open and your breath slow. Nature comes from God. Nature heals.
I grew up in the suburbs, right near the mall and a large interstate. There was not much nature in my life, and almost no appreciation of nature. There was little if any effort to connect to nature or the earth, and a mostly “take-take-take” attitude towards the physical bounty around us. There was a beloved Magnolia tree in the neighbor’s front yard that we loved to climb – until we were told it was not safe to climb due to the electrical wires running through it. And that was about it. As a child it seemed that the streets went on forever. There was no idyllic nature. I didn’t even know enough to long for it. It just was not. Nature didn’t exist and didn’t matter.
Having my experience with God greatly shifted my relationship towards the earth. I started noticing trees and the earth more. I wanted to be outside more. After my experience with God, I remember a very strong longing to just go and live in the woods and be one with God. I didn’t know what that meant, but it’s all I felt like doing. Eventually, I did rent a very run-down cabin on some woods for several years after I finished graduate school. I still worked and had friends, but I spent all my down time very alone in the woods. It was not glamorous, but it was very grounded. I had some of the most psychic dreams I’ve ever had in my life while living out there. I spent long hours sitting with the trees and got to know the flora and fauna around me.
My time with my stepfather also shifted my attitude towards nature greatly. He had a completely different perspective of nature than anyone I’d ever met, which included a holy attitude of reverence for the earth. He taught me so much, by the stories he told, and by his whole being. The earth was a blessing, not something to be used and exploited.
It has been hard to live in an industrial city where I live now. I long for open fields and forests, but I know my life is supposed to be where I am now. Nature is so grounding and healing. How do I stay in touch with nature? I spend time in our yard and try to garden. I talk to the trees and teach my daughter to talk to them too. I feel them holding us. I feed the birds and keep track of them. And, knowing that it is a privilege to have access to the natural world at all, I do what I can to help others have access to nature, like donating monthly to our local public nature reserve, as well as to national advocacy organizations.
What do you do to stay in touch with nature? Do you feel it’s important for your healing process? I’d love to hear from you.