“Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.” – Hans Christian Anderson
Summer, a time where we can explode with energy, ideas and busyness. Particularly in the UK, and with the long hard winter we experienced, the world seems ripe for the taking right now. This Hans Christian Anderson quote is my mantra for the month of June, I am taking it to heart whilst taking part again in #30dayswild which I have done each year since its inception – apart from last year. Last year was a little different, as I spent the first half of it mostly lying down, just able to see a sweet chestnut tree out of my window which I watched turn from bare, stark winter branches to bud and eventually to blossom. This kept me going through my chronic pain and vast amounts of time spent alone with two slipped discs in my neck, after being a very active person in all areas of my life.
Today it is the 1st anniversary of my spinal surgery to fix the physical problem that just wasn’t getting better on its own. I remember the fear that plagued me leading up to it - was I doing the right thing? The huge risks that had been presented to me, it turns out you’ve got an awful lot of important stuff going through your neck which is in the way of your spine - they come in from the front! With two young children relying on me it wasn’t an easy decision. So June last year contained firstly admission to hospital and then a long recovery at home. The mindfulness that I was learning and that tiny contact with nature through the window was what got me through, not just relatively unscathed (mentally I mean, physically I was pretty scathed!) but actually able to see the good and the gifts of what was actually an extremely difficult time. As the summer progressed, I managed to first get out into the garden and then to the end of the road, next into the woods and then eventually: freedom was mine!
Now it is a steady reminding of myself - kindly of course - not to take the sun, the freedom and the flowers for granted. It is so easy as busy adults with a loooong to do list to just keep working our way through it. But even if I spent all my waking – and sleeping - hours on it there would still be more to do. Slowing down and really noticing our surroundings opens us up to joy right now, wherever we are – rather than putting it off for some nebulous future time. Working as I do with children in the outdoors I am continually in awe at their natural curiosity at the world, the beginner's mind that they innately have. This is something we can cultivate again as adults, there is always more to learn, more to experience even on a well trodden path. If we are curious, we are open and interested and therefore, studies show, much less likely to suffer the debilitating effects of depression or anxiety. Not only that, but through opening our minds and learning new things we can actually slow time down. What a superhero skill! One that we can all possess if we choose to.
Summer is the perfect time to cultivate this curiosity at the outdoor world around us. The long, warm days where sun and food are more plentiful, and plants have the opportunity to flower and bear fruit as the season goes on. Meadows, gardens, woods, road verges, parks, ponds and streams are buzzing with insect and bird life especially. There is something new to see every day, in fact in every moment. Early mornings and evenings can be some of the best times to be out in nature and we can more easily fit this around our working days, and take advantage of summer’s energy giving sunshine. It can feel that this is the moment to do all those things that we’ve hunkered down all winter for. Where to start? Well, I’m proposing we start by slowing down in order to really help us to decide what is and isn’t important on our to do lists. To be for a bit in order to recharge for the doing. #30dayswild gives us the perfect opportunity to prioritise this. My focus this year is on the being in nature whatever or wherever I am, really using all my senses and being in the moment. Here are 10 ideas I am incorporating, which are simple – the only difficulty is in allowing ourselves the time to do them, but the benefits to our minds and bodies are huge:
- Lay down, or sit, in a meadow, garden or park, stopping and really paying attention to the sights, sounds and feels;
- Taste the summer through foraging for elderflowers and picking wild leaves such as chickweed for salad and making some fresh herb teas such as mint, fennel and nettle (check a wildflower key if you are unsure or a starter Foraging Chart is available from the Field Studies Council http://www.field-studies-council.org/publications/pubs/foraging-chart.aspx for £3.00 - full disclosure I am the author);
- Sit and quietly make a daisy chain – something we do as children but less so as adults;
- Take a nap in nature, the ultimate power nap;
- Walk barefoot through wet grass on a warm morning;
- Watch the early morning sunlight filtering through trees and listening to the soundscape around me;
- Dance in the rain - like no one is watching;
- Pick out the array of artists palette colours around me and the summer scents;
- Go retro and wear a wild flower in my hair;
- Being there last thing at night to witness a summer sunset.
I am posting my 30 Days Wild on Instagram @wildnessandwellness and Twitter @wildnessandwell as well as on my Wildness and Wellness Facebook page. I’d really love to hear your ideas and ways that you are finding time for the wild and the outdoors this month, time well spent for us as well as for nature. I treasure the outdoors, using George Monbiot’s succinct words, for the “refuge for rich and abundant wildlife and for people seeking relief from the clamour of daily life.” Do get in touch and we can go wild and be well together.