The importance of being outside
Sleeping in the Forest, by Mary Oliver
I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.
It is rare I’ll spend too long a time inside, a something I’ve recognised - at the ripe ol’ age of 32 - does me nowt good, to be clambering up the walls, letting stew and simmer my frustration at being ‘kept’ between them.
It can be hard, living in a city, to find pockets of nature to escape into. Once upon a time I’d have a want to hunt out greenery, and lush vegetation (ok, maybe that comes from my apparent love of story books and their distinct, happily-ever-after ways...lush vegetation, it just sounds good, doesn’t it? Rather that than ‘the bare bones of stark naked trees’), but ‘tis a rarity, here in Manchester - either because the pocket is a little too far away for a jaunt to it to be possible, or the area itself is one that (to be brutally, I-do-live-in-a-big-city-after-all honest) I wouldn’t choose to visit on my lonesome.
It is for this reason then, that I find my solace in wanderings down by the canal. A couple of minutes walk from front door to the ‘Cast No Shadow’ bridge (that, in fact, casts rather a great shadow on the days when the water is calm), the Rochdale and Ashton Canals have become chums to this here needer of nature for mental wealth, their ample stretches (the former out of the city, the latter - and the path most chosen - towards it) the perfect of partners on days when getting outside, being able to get outside, isn’t just a luxury, but a necessity.
Of course, the benefits of such an amble have been proven through research that, admittedly, I don’t have the attention span to scan (although I do very much love my brief dip into talks of Shinrin-Yoku, that is, “taking in the forest atmosphere”/”forest bathing” as lauded by Japan since the 1980s as a restorative, rejuvenating and calming health benefit), which in and of itself is an encourager of getting out, but it is only through my own intuitive connecting-to-self that I have an understanding (and a most appreciated one at that, for the moments of peace it has afforded me) of what ‘gets me through’...and nature is very much it.
My friends, what is it you do to care for your own wellbeing?
Do you like to get out in nature? Perhaps create something? Exercise good and proper? Treat yourself to something sweet (I’m down with this one!)? I'd love to know!