On these hot summer days, keeping up with watering can seem a chore, another thing to do in an already busy day. That’s the track my train of thought headed today, when I heaved myself away from my computer desk and grumbled my way outdoors, hoping to get to the tomato plants before the sun did. You see, I have a lot of potted plants and a raised bed that I haven’t yet gotten around to creating an automatic watering system for. All that watering can mean an hour or more out of my (productive) day. An hour that I sometimes resent.
Then … something wonderful happened. I paused to look around, took a deep breath, and let out a sigh that brought me completely present to that moment—to the clarity of the blue sky above me, to the sounds of birds chirping (or cawing) and water running, and the mixed scents of pine and roses and tomato plants and green grass. And I was reminded of how the outdoors restores my sense of sanity; watering was exactly the thing I needed to be doing in that moment.
Once, years ago, I worked in an air-conditioned, fluorescent-illuminated office building with no windows. I was so starved for nature that I would eat my lunch sitting under a tree on the small patch of green lawn between the sidewalk and the street. I received some pretty strange looks from people going into and out of the office, I can tell you—but that bit of green and the loving shade offered by that tree gave me badly needed perspective at the time.
According to Michael Cohen, author of Reconnecting with Nature: Finding wellness through restoring your bond with the Earth,
Our most challenging problems result from the difference between nature’s ways and the nature-separated thinking of our industrial society. Our education, formal and informal, teaches us to pay attention to the stressful complexities of managing life through stories about life rather than to participate in it.
His words may be particularly true for writers.
This week’s journaling prompts will help you explore your personal relationship to nature nurture:
- Freewrite for ten minutes beginning with, “Nature nurtures me by …”
- What types of connections with nature feel most restorative for you? For me, for example, being in proximity to water seems to bring the greatest peace of mind. Others find this connection by gardening.
- How long can you go without being outdoors before you become uncomfortable? (Cars, offices, stores, home, all count as “indoors.”)
- How long do you need to connect with the natural world before you feel ready to resume your usual indoor life and activities?
- When you vacation, do you most enjoy a rugged, outdoor experience, or a pampered indoor one? Or something in-between? Write about the influences in your life—family history, physical abilities, friends, etc.—that contributed to the way you perceive nature.
- Write about a time you went camping or experienced a risk-taking outdoor adventure and learned something important about yourself. What happened, and what did you learn? Have you forgotten that lesson over time, or has it stuck with you?
- If you could snap your finger and have as much time outdoors as you wanted every day, how much time would that be? What would you do, and why? What’s your relationship to nature? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.