Connecting to Nature: Being an Urban Druid

This is a spontaneous something that I wrote in response to Nimue Brown’s post Connecting With Nature.

I’ve found that I feel more connected to the various cycles and creatures around me when I don’t “go out into” anywhere. I live in a metropolis so it is really great when I can go somewhere surrounded by trees or the ocean or just dirt roads, but those aren’t my main practice (and I don’t want to make those trips too often because of the impact of my car). But how I connect daily is in the “nature” directly around me.

There are House Finches in my neighborhood, and lately Canada Geese and seagulls have been migrating through, gathering in a small baseball field in a park around the corner. In the morning, I walk to the bus and greet the snails who have wandered out while it’s still moist, and on my way home in the evening I look for them in the little nooks they hide in safely.

There are redwoods across from my house a ways, over the sound wall that separates us from train tracks. I watch them sway differently in the winds. I look for the birds that call from their tops, and sometimes I can see them. I appreciate the glorious shifting texture of the vines that grow on the soundwall. I don’t know much about identifying vines, but I try to look for where the leaves change in color, shape, texture, signifying it’s a new individual striving for the light and giving a gift of greens on a big slab of beige concrete.

Don’t forget that we are part of nature! Our natural compulsions are rooted in our evolutionary history. I feel myself a part of the dynamic cycles around us. In traffic, I pay attention to the flow, how some cars go ahead fast, how we snag on obstacles and slow like a stream around a boulder. I pay attention to the general mood of people as the weather changes. I notice how people decorate their yards when it isn’t just grass, people like color and texture, some like to tuck objects around like a magpie might stash pretty things. Even having a big stretch of grass is rooted in our ancient wanderings through grassy plains where our long legs let us see over, see father, see where there may be predators or prey. I pay attention to the choices I make and notice when it is like any other animal, using resources and reacting for safety, comfort, shelter, food, relationships.

We ARE connected, no matter what. We cannot disengage ourselves from “Nature”. We are also nature! But we can let it slide past us, unaware. My recommendation is not to pine for those weekend hikes, in the big vistas and picturesque views. Simply begin observing wherever you are. Get a bird watching guide and try to identify the common birds around you. While I don’t think everything needs to be labeled by people, it can be very engaging and forces us to look for details might gloss over otherwise. If that doesn’t strike you, there are plant guides as well.

Or take no guide at all. Just pay attention, remember individual trees, bushes, birds in your area and just notice when they change because you actually look at them every day .

Just try to notice things.

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