By Suzanne Radford
Published in Tomorrow magazine in the April 2020 edition.
Long walks in nature and trips to the beach may be limited at the moment, but there are still ways we can get our nature fix. By bringing the beauty of the natural world indoors we can create meaningful moments either on our own or with family and friends. So, here are some tips to connecting with the power of nature from the comfort of your home.
House plants create a green interior and a welcome tranquillity to our living space. Pedro M. Trindade, landscape architect of Peace of Plant recommends bringing tall and lean plants like palms into the home to maximise space. He says to place them, ideally, near windows so they are exposed to natural light and allow for photosynthesis to occur. This way you create what Pedro calls an ‘indoor oasis’ improving air quality and an overall sense of wellbeing. If you want to take it up a notch, you can make a vertical garden using height and layers so your tall plants reach up from the floor, smaller plants placed on shelves and trailing plants hanging in baskets from the ceiling.
Take 10 minutes each day to simply sit and notice what is around you. Whether indoors, sitting in a garden or on a balcony open your senses to what is there. A bird in flight, the movement of a bee, grasses or flowers moving in the breeze. If you don’t have access to outdoor space then Richard Louv, author of The Nature Principle suggests a ‘world watching window’ so, choose a window and take in the view or gaze at the clouds, and notice what surfaces in your thoughts and mind.
Create a nature haven through your sense of smell by lighting organic beeswax or soy wax candle infused with plant extracts and let the aroma of wildflowers into your home. Make a soothing foot bath by adding a few drops of natural essential oils from the forest like eucalyptus, lavender or peppermint into a bowl of warm water and gently soak the feet. Close your eyes and breathe, feel the sensation of water, the scents and let any tension or worries slip away.
A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that you can reduce stress by simply looking at images of nature. When participants viewed pictures of natural scenes, their stress level decreased because their parasympathetic nervous system (which helps us to calm down) was activated. Take a trip down memory lane and look at holiday photos of beautiful places you have visited and take a moment to remember how it felt to be there, sitting on that beach, looking at that ocean or wherever the image takes you.
Making sounds with your children is a fun way to connect with nature. It could be sounds of wildlife like a lion or bear or sounds from the forest - wind in trees, raindrops falling or the bird call of a cuckoo or owl. Bring out your inner child explore the sounds with your children. Add movement and actions and when you are ready to quieten things down sit and share stories from your childhood and happy times spent in nature. You can sketch these out or make paintings and bring your stories to life.
A Good Read
The Man who Planted Trees by Jean Giono is a charming story that can be enjoyed by folk young and old. I first came across the story in its stage version at The Edinburgh Festival Fringe and was enthralled. It begins in the year 1910 and spans the lives of a traveller who is the narrator of the story, and a shepherd who plants trees. Set in Provence, the descriptions are vivid you can imagine the vibrant colours of French Lavender and the scent emanates from the page. It is a touching tale of a man’s simple quest, with the ageing characters the trees become a forest. The book is heralded as a masterpiece of nature writing and is about love for the environment and humanity and carries a positive message of hope.
The film, Jane, charts the incredible journey from the 1960s to present day of conservationist Jane Goodall who through her research and close relationship with chimpanzee’s in Tanzania changed the world’s understanding of the natural world. Drawing on hundreds of hours of never-before-seen footage from the National Geographic archives, the documentary is directed by Brett Morgen and includes a stunning soundtrack from composer Philip Glass.
Meaning & Metaphors
Nature poetry has a way of reminding us of our love for landscapes we wander through, trees that tower over us, hands in the soil, sunlight on the face. It connects us to the awe and beauty of nature that can provide great comfort. One never feels truly alone when we connect to nature and being aware of all that is there near and far opens our eyes to how resilient the earth is and how we can be too. Any of Mary Oliver’s poetry is sure to move and inspire, like this…
Sleeping In the Forest
I thought the earth remembered me, she took me back so tenderly, arranging her dark skirts, her pockets full of lichens and seeds. I slept as never before, a stone on the riverbed, nothing between me and the white fire of the stars but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths among the branches of the perfect trees. All night I heard the small kingdoms breathing around me, the insects, and the birds who do their work in the darkness. All night I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling with a luminous doom. By morning I had vanished at least a dozen times into something better.
– Mary Oliver