Relationship With Place
I recently created a new nature mandala workshop focusing on the FIRE Element. My starting point was thinking about the fact that our time is spent either awake or asleep -cultivating our passions or exploring our dreams. Both passions and dreams, to me, are like fire. One is on earth and one in the other, but both are powerful, dynamic, and beautiful.
In this workshop, participants have the opportunity to riff on their dreams, writing down whatever comes to mind. Then they use art and writing to try to see what their dreams or daydreams are trying to tell the and how the aspirations might be achieved in one form or another.
Looking at my list, several strong themes surfaced. I found I was longing to live in a wild space again. When I was a child, my family owned 42 acres of mountains in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania. Or maybe it was 52. It didn't really matter much because it was just mountain after mountain beyond our house, and they all seemed to be mine. I got lost in the details every day and paid attention to everything! It was a great place for a nature girl like me and definitely made me the person I am today.
During adulthood, I moved more than two dozen times . . . so far. So it seems. to make sense that I sometimes find it hard to feel grounded. Between 1992 and 2018, however, my I lived mainly on the south coast of New England where I could visit specific spots over and over again. There, I again developed a relationship with place. A community. A respite. A refuge.
For the past few years I have been living in a rather stressful, noisy, urban area that is just little too far from those favorite places to visit as often as I need. I am missing that refuge, support, and peace. Working through the workshop practice on my own, I realized that even if I can't not own woods or even a garden right now, I could feel pretty satisfied just cultivating a relationship with a new, natural place. So, I have chosen a piece of woods closer to me and have started the connection. Here are a couple notes from June 15, 2022
Journaling: Wednesday / June 15 2022 /
*Today I looked a baby cardinal in the eye from about a foot away.
*Next year, I will try to remember that when the crows fledge, the mountain laurel is blooming.
* I found a tiny gall on the ground. I can't remember what kind of insect grows in it, but it felt like treasure carrying it for awhile on my walk. It reminds me of creation and God and Mystery.
* I know three places in these woods where hemlock grow, but today, I saw hemlock cones all over the place! There are more there than I thought.
* Why did I see water chestnuts on the trail so far from the water?
* I may start a ritual of standing where the woods opens to the pond to feel the sun or the wind or whatever on my face. And I may also start a ritual of placing objects from the walk on the second green stump to honor this place and our relationship.
* I think there were five turtles on the log. Why were they stretching their necks so far? What were they trying to see? The sun?
And while I am in the mood for lists and writing down random thoughts, here are a few benefits from building a relationship with place over time. These are just a few that I can think of off the top of my head. I am sure there are more!
1) Relationship with place cultivates curiosity and awe. Awe is a major precipitator of satisfaction with life that can also help with critical thinking and perspective. How awesome is that?
2) Watching the changes of the season and seeing events repeat each year brings a sense of regularity and predictability. During stressful times, like the pandemic for example, this helps us realize that some things are temporal. Nature is bigger than those problems and will be here long after they are gone.
3) Connecting to nature in a regular, committed way allows us to experience a feeling of community and inclusion. We feel not only privileged to be a part of this community, but feel loved by the way nature shares its beauty unconditionally.
4) Observing nature is a form of meditation that takes us away from our cares and stresses for a time. Practicing this feeling helps us more easily come back to calm when we need to. Calling into mind images and sounds that have become familiar, helps us get to that peaceful place more easily.
5) Being in nature for as little as twenty minutes significantly lowers cortisol. I don't know how that works. I don't think I need to. It just does.