Last weekend, my partner Darren and I were hiking along the Elk River Valley Trail in Strathcona Park, a stunning trek filled with large coniferous trees. Both mentally exhausted from our respective workweeks, we threw on our backpacks with no final destination in mind. Initially, all I could think of was going back to the parking lot where Walter White, our sweet Delica van, waited to embrace me in our makeshift bed and down comforter. However, as we began moving and I shifted my attention to our surroundings, I slowly began to feel grateful for our choice to visit the forest. As I was greeting the immense Douglas Firs, noticing the variety of mosses within a hand's-breadth, and marveling at the unfurling fern fronds, I began to recognize that my relationship to the natural environment had changed. Certainly, as humans we are ever evolving but the change of which I speak I attribute directly to my time outside with my kids since mid-March. As a result of the big shift that happened worldwide, I started taking my step-kids out into the Cumberland Forest every afternoon, Wednesday through Friday. We call it Forest School and at its center is the Sit Spot. I had started the sit spot practice before but never followed through with any consistency, caught up in daily obligations, parenting, and Netflix. I am now fully converted however, as are my kids. The benefits are numerous but as I have already delved into this topic before in a previous post, I will limit my praise and simply say, JUST DO IT!
Back to the trail. As we were ambling down the trail, a wandering sit spot of sorts, the lack of destination allowed for us to stop more often to gawk in awe and wonder. As if in a cathedral, the immensity, complexity and beauty of our natural environment was spellbinding. Admittedly, I don't often engage with the forest in this way, focused on a final destination and my internal dialogue. Hence, the beauty of wandering. By adding this routine to your tool-belt of nature connection activities, you encourage presence. You see things you have never noticed such as the fairy orchid at your feet or the variety of birdsong up in the tree canopy. You also begin to hear yourself, giving space to come into the body and feel. Unstructured time, removes agenda and expectations, allowing for reconnection, not only with the natural environment but also to self. As an educator and parent, what greater gift can you give your children then an opportunity to ground and connect within their own terms? As you wander, the absence of structure allows for the ignition of personal curiosities, authentic learning and mind expansion. (A list of wandering-type activities can be found at the end of this blog posting.)
The wonders of nature connection are infinite and expressing one's gratitude is key to deepening one's relationship to the community, be it with edible plants, animals, friends or family. I have added two songs to this blog, one in honor of the Cedar and the other, the full version of Wild One, which I only shared in part in a previous blog. I do not know who wrote these songs and I learned them directly from the following link: https://soundcloud.com/songforest
If you do know who wrote them please let me know as it's important for me to acknowledge the creators of these amazing tunes. I have included actions to help with the memorization process. I am continuously looking for new music sources, so please let me know if you have any suggestions.
To close, may you find some time to sit and/or walk quietly outside this week. You deserve this time. You deserve the opportunity to reconnect and ground. And once you carve out time, who knows what amazing discoveries you will make?
Waving branches in the breeze
Red bark rising to the sky
Leaves like a woven tapestry
Small and humble am I
Grandmother cedar give me strength
Grandfather cedar give me grace
May I give all that I have to give
Beside you my spirit take its place
Let the sun sunshine down and warm my bones
Let the birds and the bees come and take away my clothes
'Cuz I’m a wild one now made of wind and rain
I’m Wild now and ain't going back again
Let the moon shine down and cleanse my soul
Let the wolves and the owls come to tend my coals
'Cuz I’m a wild one now made of stars and dreams
I’m wild and I’m part of everything
Let the rain pour down and soothe my mind
Let the fish and the frogs come and help my kind
'Cuz I’m a wild one now made of earth and trees
I’m wild and I want to be at ease
Let the earth turn around and teach me so
Let the worms and the robins come complete the whole
'Cuz I’m a wild one now made of love and seeds
I’m wild and the spirit has made me free (x3)
Here are some activities to support the process of wandering. I have retrieved them from the Coyote's Guide to Mentoring by Jon Young.