Photography and words by: Catherine Bernier
Since the very beginning of quarantine, I've been spending a large amount of time indoors. I work as an employee during the week and as a self-employed worker on weekends. As a result, I am in front of a screen most of the time without much of a break and my mental health is taking a hit. I'm in great need of some off-the-grid time and a chance to refresh my mind outdoors!
The irony, and I realize I may not have everyone's sympathies here, is that my boyfriend and I are confined to our semi-sufficient cabin in Nova Scotia. The great outdoors is right there, so close. Every morning, during our coffee time, a rabbit rummages for clovers in our backyard. Eagles, cormorants and kingfishers fight over the fish before our eyes. We fall asleep to the sound of the waves and wake up to the cries of the gulls. It's a privilege and one I'm very grateful for. That said, on the other hand, I do envy those who have the benefit of a mental break during this period of uncertainty. With this precious time, I would rekindle my relationship with nature and honour the closeness that we're not taking advantage of as much as we would like.
To me, this is the plight of humanity: we have stopped finding it odd that we are more bound to our screens and to economic recovery, or to our ten thousand projects down the road and in the process we have disconnected with that which gave us life. Our real world where we have everything we need.
I believe that we must seize the opportunity to reconnect with nature, in the here and now. To do so, we have to become fully aware of the interconnectivity of everything around us, let's revive sensitivity to hear nature's voice, let's nurture our connection with nature and take care of it with as much attention as we give to the people we love or to our jobs.
We belong to nature
We are an integral part of what we call nature. To paraphrase a passage from The Sacred Balance, by David Suzuki that I identify with - biologically and ecologically - we are the elements that make up life on earth: water, air, minerals and light, just like other living things. There is something reassuring about the way this simple fact of existing within a large complex system gives meaning to our lives. If you try to isolate one thing in nature, you see how profoundly true this is. Nature is within us and it is all around us because it is us. If we can just hold on to this notion, all of us collectively, I believe things can get better.
Rekindle the natural instincts
This week, I started meditating again outdoors and sometimes indoors too. The simple fact of focusing my attention on the air that is transforming in my lungs and flowing through me fills me with loving consciousness, giving me awareness of the smells, the birds that inhabit the sky, the wind that caresses my skin and the sun that warms me, awakening my instincts. The beaches have reopened in Nova Scotia, a beautiful gift to the communities here. I am reconnecting with the ocean, still cold and shocking yet healing to the system. Quietly, I find myself able to exist and live through my senses and not through a professional status or an Instagram feed, and it feels good. On week nights, my boyfriend and I have gotten back into the habit of cooking over the fire.
Connecting with nature one shoot at a time
I'm not the only one getting into gardening, the delicate little shooting plants of ammature gardeners are flooding my feed and I love it. There's something healthy about the actions involved in growing plants, even just alfalfa sprouts in a Mason jar! And harvesting is just as healthy of course. The more direct contact we have with what we eat, the better we feel, both individually and collectively.
I am delighted with the growing supply and demand for organic baskets from local farms. Quarantine has allowed us to enhance the work of our local producers and the quality of their products. The simple act of washing our food, for health reasons, encourages us to give it extra attention. Next time you wash your fruits and vegetables, take the time to observe their shapes, textures and smells. These are opportunities to appreciate their true value and connect with the source. At the cabin, we don't yet have a sink in the kitchen (under renovation), so I wash my vegetables in the shower. VIP spa treatment for my kale!
Earth care = self care
In the city, as in the country, there is always a way to take care of nature on a daily basis and at the same time, we take care of ourselves. For a while now, my most rewarding walks have been the ones where I clean up the trash on the beach. Plogging will not solve all environmental problems. Cleaning up my immediate living environment somehow allows me to do a little cleaning up with my thoughts as well. By focusing my attention on one object at a time, I avoid falling into my often redundant thought patterns (work, worries, To-do lists). I feel more useful, and what could be more worthwhile than working to restore a little corner of the planet, including myself!
Finally, no matter where we live, we can all practice right here and now to live the present moment fully through our senses, and when the national parks and their green spaces reopen, let us honor this privilege of having access to so much beauty with fresh eyes and a renewed sense of appreciation and awe.
It's time to rekindle our connection to our essential nature, and let's do so in the most sustainable way possible.