How Nature Shaped my Life #BacktoNature

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the Earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”
— Rachel Carson

Growing up, I rode ponies and climbed trees and swam in lakes. These experiences weren’t always comfortable or happy. However, these were the experiences which taught me how to be independent, curious, and engaged with the world.

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Now that I’m an adult, I look back on these times through a kaleidoscope of emotions. I see them as a period of (now unobtainable) freedom; my emotions are full of yearning to reexperience a comparable state of being. While my family and I were at the cottage – two small buildings without the modern trappings of running water or electricity, one of them built by my great-grandfather – I would wander off along the country roads and into the old gravel pit whenever my heart desired. I particularly loved walking early in the morning, when the mists were rising off the nearby farm fields and the barn swallows were most active over the lake. I had inconsequential worries and fears at the time. I certainly didn’t have to think about finances and careers.

(I can also recall an occasion where I expressed a desire to go back home and watch TV to my mother. I do recall her gently chiding me for this preference; and that conversation reinforced my understanding of the cottage as a sacred space for us as a family, where we slowed down and detached from electronics.)

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Wandering and observing was central to my experience at my grandmother’s farm.

My emotions also run toward pride as I remember how I enjoyed the solitude of walking around my grandmother’s rural property; fallow fields and an old barn offered ample space for my explorations. When we owned a dog, a loyal Doberman, he would accompany me through the fields. I crafted stories and poems in my mind as I walked. I fell off the pony (or was thrown), had branches fall on me, and generally returned home with a few cuts and bruises. I regarded these, at the time, as badges of honour. I certainly didn’t have a repetitive strain injury or sore back muscles from sitting in front of a computer all day.

(It could also be noted that, when I did fall off the pony, I was told by parents and mentors to keep a strong upper lip and get back on the horse – otherwise, fear might have guided my future interactions with the animal. The element of risk and danger made these experiences into life lessons about resilience and strength of character.)

When I wasn’t hiking around the farm or my family cottage, I was reading in the shade and dreaming of the future. I wanted to be a parks ranger, I mused at the time, and spend all of my time outdoors. Applying to university, I entered an environmental studies program and focused on outdoor recreation and tourism. The real amount of time that I spent outdoors dwindled as my responsibilities grew. I found myself justifying the time that I spent outdoors in minutes and calorie counts. I was exercising, not appreciating, and the leisurely periods of observation during my childhood faded in my identity.

Leisurely periods of observation, like watching the clouds, dwindled as I got older.
Leisurely periods of observation, like watching the clouds, dwindled as I got older.

I have been asleep to the warm embrace of nature for some time. My focus has been on working, balancing commitments, meeting new people. Now, as luck would have it, I have been offered the incredible opportunity of working as Communications Coordinator for the Back to Nature Network.

It’s a role that actively nurtures my need to be in touch with nature. The mission of the organization – connecting children and families with nature – resonates with my own cherished memories of my childhood. Working out of the organization’s main offices at the Royal Botanical Gardens also means that I am physically immersed in nature every day.

I would not be able to access an opportunity like this one without all of my amazing mentors and supporters. I remain grateful to my family, my network of contacts, and individuals I have come to regard as friends over time. Nature has taught me that humility and thankfulness are important; I bring this perspective into my new role.

I am eager to connect with anyone who has an interest in the work of the Back to Nature Network – please feel free to reach out to me anytime on our Contact Us page. You can also connect with me on our Facebook and Twitter feeds; ‘ReTweets’ and ‘Likes’ are a good way to start the conversation!

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