The moment you step outside, you can feel it. The lifting of your spirit. The sun warms your skin. Even on a cool day you feel a little lighter just walking out the door. For the lucky amongst us, mountains stand as sentinels nearby, their white tops glistening. Below the peaks, forest trails beckon. Even on the gloomiest of days, a literal breath of fresh air does wonders. Nature is a symphony that soothes the senses.
In this time of uncertainty, nature can be a refuge in ways perhaps it has never been before.
For Emily Nilsen, nature’s stillness is a balm to the onslaught of news these days. Emily is a Nelson-based writer who has also worked in the conservation field.
Pre-pandemic, she would get out regularly, whether it was a lunchtime stroll or an evening walk in the wilderness. She finds peace in backcountry skiing, hiking, biking, and swimming. Before this new normal descended, it was something she took for granted as a part of her routine.
With the chaos in the world today, she savours the calm quiet found outside.
“When everything else feels unsettled, being still in nature feels good,” she says. “I need to recalibrate. But where can I do that? I can’t do that by being online, by taking in the news. But I can do that by doing something that feels relatively constant.”
While we are being asked to truncate so many connections right now, muses Emily, our relationship to nature stays the same.
“It’s really easy to get pulled into the external narrative,” Emily comments. “If I can just go and feel the sun on my face, or look at tulips that are starting to poke out of the ground, there’s something softening to that and I think that’s important right now.”
For Kimberley-based Bruce Kirkby, outdoor activities are a big part of his daily life. Walking in the woods, mountain biking, backcountry or nordic skiing, paddle boarding and extended wilderness expeditions are some of his favourite pastimes.
Despite the threat of COVID-19, Bruce and his young family are still getting outside.
“There are a myriad of benefits for getting outside, but the primary reason I go is because I love it. There is no other option really,” reflects Bruce. “The slowed down time is a gift, and a chance to re-learn what is important to each of us.”
He is spending more time with his family these days and finding comfort in the quieter pace of life.
“Ironically I’ve just spent five years writing a book (Blue Sky Kingdom) about our family’s time at a Buddhist monastery, where we slowed down, and reconnected with ancient ways, so it’s kind of amazing to now see it happening at home.”
Paul Bell spends half his time in the Columbia Valley and the other half on Vancouver Island. An avid outdoor enthusiast, Paul has spent years sailing and kayaking, camping, hiking, and in general just enjoying the outdoors. He also likes to run multiple days a week with a small group of friends on local forest trails.
Things have changed with the threat of COVID-19 lurking in every close encounter. But for Paul, much has stayed the same. While he no longer goes out with his whole troupe of running buddies, he’ll meet up with a friend or two and run three metres apart, enjoying one another’s company in the wooded trails. With a rocky, deserted beach by his home, Paul and his wife walk the shoreline, or take hikes in the nearby forests.
“When I’m outside, I get a great feeling of being alive, a great sense of ‘this is where I really belong,” Paul shares. “I feel a genuine sort of surprising wonderment … an inner peace.”
That feeling of belonging, he speculates, comes from an awareness that every living thing on the planet is related.
“I have this sense of being a part of this great, big, wonderful part of evolution,” he reflects.
While out in nature, Paul finds joy.
“One of the best things you can experience is to hike the endless trails,” Paul comments. “There’s an excitement in being there”
Should restrictions tighten, Paul says he’ll be able to interact with nature through his garden, his views outside his windows, and even through his memories.
For some of us, nature is as accessible as walking out our back door. Others may need to work a little harder to seek it out. However we connect with nature – a window view offering a tree growing tall or the colour of a flower emerging, a look to the sky rewarded with clouds rolling by, hearing the lilt of birdsong – finding a way to connect normally brings just reward.
Do you need to take some time today to tune out of world events, and tune into nature? Try it, if ever so briefly and let us know, if it wasn’t time well spent.