Yesterday, I felt the desire for a nature retreat and I thought about going to spend the day at my parents’ house. However, the trip was not in the cards for the day, and so I decided to do what I usually do and look for nature near my home in the city.
Certainly, “looking for nature”, or needing to go someplace to “connect with nature” is a bit misleading since nature is everywhere and I could have just looked in the mirror all day as one way to experience it, but I think most people will agree that there is a different energy when we surround ourselves with plants, animals, and are slightly removed from the human built environment.
Looking to connect with nature in the city is not quite my ideal, but it’s important to realize that we can find ways to feel a part of the natural world wherever we are.
Just stepping out my backdoor, I am reminded that nature provides us with food and that my connection to this process will soon result in the consumption of my favorite vegetable: acorn squash.
I’ve also planted food for other species and can connect with the life cycles of insects and birds by seeing who is visiting my yard, when, and what they’re gathering here. Currently, monarch butterflies are preparing for a truly epic migration and this one has spent many hours feasting on these flowers in my backyard (much more on monarchs and an awesome monarch project I’m involved with soon).
Heading out toward the sidewalk, I begin to walk around the block taking in the peak of summer. People’s annual flowers burst brightly in their front lawns, deadly berries and their beautiful flowers pop through fence rails, and edible relatives burst over another fence (the purple flowers are from the nightshade plant — considered to be poisonous or at least hallucinogenic. Technically, tomatoes are also in the nightshade family and some people would tell you that it’s better not to eat too many. )
Rounding the curb, I come to the neighborhood park. It’s a very basic park with a playground for the kids, tennis and basketball courts, but a tributary of Big Creek (my watershed’s river) also runs through the park.
I don’t know how many other people pay any attention to this little water feature, but walking along its edge is the best nature experience I’ve got within walking distance of my home.
Oftentimes, I can find a piece of the creek to look at or be with where I almost forget I’m in the midst of the city. I hear water trickling, I hear squirrels chattering, and the sun peaks through the canopy.
But it’s impossible to forget the reality of city living and how poorly we treat our Earth when here.
The neglect saddens me. I try to say a prayer and radiate out my care for the Earth as I collect several tin cans, water bottles, and a plastic bag. It barely leaves a dent in the trash pile that is this waterway, but I hope that my intentions spread. Starhawk gave me this idea of sending out a positive vibration that my actions will spread as I pick up trash or do other environmentally friendly things. I don’t know if it does anything, but it’s better than feeling angry and upset with my fellow humans who do not see how they are connected with all of this.
What do children learn as they pass this waterway? Are natural areas a dumping ground and not places for the imagination and spirit to soar? What will it mean for the future that most of the human population now lives in cities? And many “natural” areas of the city look like this?
I breathe in and focus again on the beauty around me.
But the contrast is unavoidable, although mesmerizing in some strange way.
I leave knowing that nature will be fine. I hope we learn to coexist with her for our own good.