Written by: Madeline McCallum, contributing writer and blogger at http://madelinesmusing.blogspot.com/?m=1
“When I look at my roses I remember that life happens in cycles. We can’t – and shouldn’t – be flowering all the time. Life needs rest periods, dark periods, time to cut back – sometimes down to the ground. Time to put out new shoots. And no perennial can thrive year on year unless its roots are strong, deep and nourished. When you live close to nature you learn that we are nature. We all need the same things.”
-Jeanette Winterson, in the June issue of Harper’s Bazaar UK
I think I feel most connected to myself when I am surrounded by nature. It is simultaneously calming and invigorating – the soft breeze fluttering through the trees, ruffling the light green underbellies of the leaves so they catch the evening sun just so.
Its part nostalgia – my childhood was full of bare feet on soft grass and building hideaways in the woods– and part orienting myself in the present moment. Just going for a walk outside can be such a good mindfulness exercise – focus on tuning all the senses into your experience. What do I see? What do I hear? What can I taste? By activating all of my senses, I find myself focusing on the birds singing, the child playing with a soccer ball in the park, the hint of sweat and dust on my lips, rather than the swirling thoughts in my brain.
If I ever need to clear my head, I just get myself outside. Sometimes that means a lovely stroll on a bright summers’ day, searching for flowers & listening to the bees buzzing as they fly past. But it can also mean leaning into a blah mood by taking the long route home on a gray, drizzly afternoon, seeing how the familiar neighbourhoods can have a completely different personality depending on the weather, my mindset, and maybe the soundtrack I am listening to. I appreciate a moody, movie-score walk down the street every now and then – I am still connecting to whatever it is I’m feeling, acknowledging it, really feeling it, and then getting on with my day.
Connecting with nature also helps me to see the world on a grander scale – to escape my anxieties and understand that we really are meant for so much more. Just ponder for a moment the scale of an oak tree – it has probably been rooted there for decades, watching the world go by, observing change and turmoil and peace and the mundane everyday.
I also use nature as a form of self-expression – part of my core identity involves a deep love and appreciation for beautiful things, which expresses itself in my passion for fashion and interior decoration. I love a good floral print, and I delight in finding new floral-inspired pieces, mixing them into my wardrobe and collecting different designs. I also love to surround myself with fresh blooms, and I use the Sunday flower market as self-care. If I am ever sad or I have plans canceled and I don’t know what to do with myself, I schedule a prompt trip to an outdoor market. Just strolling through rows of peonies, tall, demanding sunflowers, cascading vines & bright dahlias, brings me so much pure joy.
The metaphor of nature helps me connect with myself. The narrative of impermanence and of natural cycles, the reminder that we are not meant to bloom all year round – all of these are wrapped into mantras I hold close. Much like plants, we need water, sunlight, attention, and patience in order to grow and stay healthy. And sometimes a raging forest fire may come through and burn everything to the ground – but wildflowers are the first thing to grow back, and they often come back even more beautiful than before.
My mom has always told me that I should use going for a walk as part of my toolkit, as part of my mental health prescription. If I feel anxious, go for a walk. If I know I should move my body but can’t muster up much energy, go for a walk. If I need to clear my head, go for a walk. This advice has continued to ring true year after year and also seems to work when I need to connect with myself. If I need to spend some time with Madeline, remind myself of who I am and what I love, spending some time in nature always does the trick.