Green 2.0: Seasonal Joys

13 10 2010

I can’t fool you: we are talking about pleasures again. I just got tired of writing the word.

Although you’ve probably heard it before, it’s true as can be: in our industrialized society, it can be hard to feel at home in our natural surroundings, which are essentially the seasons. If we are unpracticed in the art of savoring each season’s joys, we may focus only on its sorrows. Spring is muddy; summer, hot; autumn gloomy; winter . . . well, you know all about that if you live north of Florida.

The poet Thoreau once said, “Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.” So much of our struggle with nature – and I do include myself – is the feeling that we must be in control. That we must rage against the dying of the light, to quote another poet. What travelers tend to find so quaint about indigenous peoples is really their joyful resignation to the influences – good and otherwise – of their world. Natives know how to navigate nature and find the best in it because they live in it – and with it.

We can learn this. It must be a gentle courtship. Buy some of the season’s fruits at a farm stand. Make a recipe with seasonal ingredients (try’s Local Foods). Or simply sit outside, in any weather, for just a few minutes. See how the light is different than three months ago.

What are your seasonal joys?

Green 2.0: Nature Expectations

5 10 2010

In her book Eat Mangoes Naked, SARK remarks on our tendency to sabotage pleasure by setting ourselves up for disappointment. When we expect to have a good time doing something, she says, we can become frustrated that the experience is not what we anticipated. She offers, “Instead of going to have ‘a good time’ (which can cause pressure or struggle), we might just have ‘a time.’ This allows our actual experience to occur.”

I was a recent victim of great nature expectations – my own, that is. I went to a park with my husband to explore on a perfect autumn afternoon and soon felt irritable that the sun grew too warm for the perfect fall outfit I was wearing. My mind then found other things to pick at, and soon I was fully annoyed at my disappointment. Luckily I realized what I was doing to myself and tried to appreciate the day from a more open perspective. Then the sun started to cool and the evening was truly perfect!

We can all re-condition our responses to nature. Most of the time there will be things that can stop us from enjoying it if we let them. There will be dirt, and bugs, and hot sun, and cold rain. There will be itchy bits and cloudy skies. The scenery may have changed since we visited as a child; the trail may be eroded and more difficult than we remember. All of these things are opportunities to breath, smile, and have “a time.”

We may just find there are treasures in the muck. I remember a few days that could have been dismal but turned out to be lasting, adventurous memories; a blustery October day turned into running through the rain, laughing. We can redeem nature moments, as we can people moments, work moments, doing-the-laundry moments.

I wish you many moments transformed!

Green 2.0: Pleasure Principle

1 10 2010
A male tufted titmouse, Baeolophus bicolor, pe...

Image via Wikipedia

So far in the Green 2.0 series, we’ve discussed simple, guilty and unusual pleasures. Why all this pleasure talk?

I believe one of the best ways to connect with nature is paying attention to the pleasures it provides for us. They come without price and require no special equipment. They come to beggar as to diplomat, and they never end. Pleasures fall from the sky! (If you like rain and dandelion seeds as much as I do, this is quite literally true.)

Yesterday I finally saw the mystery bird responsible for discreet nibbling on the suet (or block of fat) hanging from our balcony. It’s pictured above; can you guess what it is? This pleasure came to me unbidden! Nature provides many such pleasures if we keep ourselves open to receiving them.

So, what’s a surprising pleasure you’ve had from nature recently?

Answer: Tufted Titmouse

Green 2.0: Nature at Warp Speed

29 09 2010

Perhaps you don’t move at warp speed, but grant me this: we move a lot nowadays. There are always things to do, some of our own creation. This can make it seemingly difficult to reconnect with nature. What’s a busy person to do?

Try some of these mini-activities on for size during your next road trip, or even as you jet about your day-to-day. Think of them as adult versions of “Eye Spy” – with a double-shot espresso.

  • Something old. Check out a view you pass every day and challenge yourself to find something new about your same-old surroundings. Hey, when did that nest get there?
  • Train window. As you commute on the light-rail or drive to work (use caution people), ponder what makes the landscape unique in all the world.
  • A bird in the hand . . . Birds are literally everywhere. In fact, they may be the most accessible wildlife. Take a moment to watch any bird today. Bonus points if it’s a dirty, commonplace-looking one. Also bonus points if it’s a rare find – go look it up!
  • Mud pies. You may need to swallow some pride and look both ways, but it’s worth it. Stoop or sit on the ground in your backyard (or somewhere secluded in a park) and dig a small hole. Be fascinated by dirt again, if only for a few moments. Are there any tiny creatures? If you do this in your front yard, I cannot guarantee you won’t get strange looks.

And finally . . .

  • Just breathe. Every guru of every meditative, therapeutic art will tell you this because it’s the most simple healing magic anywhere. It can’t be beat. Stop where you are, with all of your bags, and take a few deep breaths. Look around and smile. Doesn’t that feel great?

Now, on your way!

Green 2.0: Unusual Pleasures

27 09 2010


Rain drops on a pyracantha leaf

Image via Wikipedia


I am in the midst of swirling changes. On days like today, when my nerves feel wracked by many questions, I look for the unusual pleasures to be found, indoors and out.

Today, that pleasure is the slow, soaking rain. It was badly needed here in the Mid-Atlantic after a terribly hot and dry summer. But the unusual part is my particular pleasure in it, not for its utility but for the reassurance its steady dripping brings. While my world feels chaotic, the rain is predictable. It’s also soothing that the sky and the earth meet in a peaceful water-world; every problem has a solution, and every road will end with a peace such as this.

What is your unusual pleasure?

Green 2.0: Cultivating Memories

24 09 2010
Panorama of the Iguazu waterfalls from Bresil

Image via Wikipedia

We can re-write history. Of course, we cannot change what has happened in our lives, but we can cultivate the good by cherishing those memories and keeping their spirit alive. We can do this by seeking similar experiences.

Do you have a memory – perhaps related to your simplest pleasures – of a blissful or interesting nature experience? I use both words because if you don’t feel easily drawn to nature, you may not have had a blissful experience, but you surely had an interesting one along the way. You can transform even a somewhat negative experience – like being lost and scared in the woods – by focusing on the interesting aspects of it. Were there mysterious sounds? Intriguing smells? Did following your curiosity get you lost in the first place? Recapture what led you there.

Research shows that people who grow up to feel passionate about conserving nature tend to have had a transformative childhood experience outdoors. In other words, they had a moment of wonder and awe, of feeling impressed by the beauty, wholeness and vastness of the world. If you can dig into your past and remember a time you felt this, you can seek out these experiences again. If you never had a chance, go seek it now. Simply be outside, be open, and awe will find you.

I support you in your adventure!

Green 2.0: The Little Things

23 09 2010

Quick – what’s your simplest guilty pleasure? When I say simplest, I’m trying to cut out the usual answers – celebrity gossip, reality TV, bubble baths (all of which I totally understand) – and get to the joys we take in the bounty of the earth.

I just enjoyed one of mine. After putting honey in my tea, I like to use the warm spoon to eat a dollop of it. During that blissful moment in which the honey lingers on my tongue, I often think about how the flavor differs depending on where the bees made it. This encourages me to find local honey, because in addition to supporting local farms, I want to know what local honey tastes like – what here tastes like.

You can use your simplest pleasures to awaken appreciation for your natural surroundings. Like the beach? Think about why – your answer will probably lead you to gratitude for the sound of rhythmic waves, the invigorating, briny smell and warm sand on your feet. Like having your evening tea or beer on the porch? You may not realize it yet, but you likely enjoy the reliable approach of evening, with its soothing sunset colors, insect sounds and cool breezes.

The experts increasingly find that gratitude extends our lives and reduces that silent killer: stress and unhappiness. Even if you haven’t been drawn to nature in your recent memory, all is not lost.  Picture the first warm, sunny morning of spring, snow melting everywhere and birds singing. Is that you, smiling?

Green 2.0: Finding the Beauty

17 09 2010
Beauty is forever.

Image via Wikipedia

Sometimes we do not find ourselves living in very natural places. Despite our location, however, there is surely beauty to be found nearby – we may just need a little help finding it. To that end, why not try some of these activities this weekend?

  • Joy walk: Go on a walk looking only for natural things that make you smile. They may have been put there by people, such as a garden or planter full of flowers, but finding what gives you joy is the goal. Follow your senses and investigate!
  • Special mission: Search for signs of life. This may involve close observation in unusual places, but small plants and animals (insects qualify for this) occupy most places on the planet. The resilience of a dandelion forcing its way through asphalt is just one example of the way nature can inspire our humanity.
  • Balcony gardening: You can grow something wherever you live. Use a sturdy pot or other container (preferably with a few small holes in the bottom) to plant seeds from the supermarket on your windowsill, balcony, or rooftop space. Be creative with the container and the seeds – will you want herbs, vegetables, flowers or ferns? Read the instructions and nurture your piece of nature. Does it change over time? Does it attract any insects or birds?
  • Try a new hobby: If you want to learn more about and find more nature, try checking out a library book on birding for beginners. Once you start, you’ll notice more birds – and other wild things – than ever before.

Green 2.0: Learning to See, Part 2

14 09 2010

Now that we’ve discussed how to use your windows properly, let’s talk about what’s beyond them. Have you ever realized that taking the first step out of your house/apartment/hovel is the beginning of endless possibilities? It can be daunting or exciting or both. Have a little adventure with me today and try one or all of the following ideas to jump-start a connection with what’s past your walls.

  • Pause on your threshold and really look around. Is the view different than what your windows provide? What are the differences – slight or great – between experiencing your surroundings through them or this way?
  • Find a safe spot and close your eyes. How many smells can you smell? What feelings and memories do they bring to the surface?
  • Keep your eyes closed and count how many sounds you can hear. Are you surprised how many or what kinds of sounds there are compared with what you expected or tend to notice?
  • Finally, feel the wind and sun on your face. How does the weather feel to you?
  • Open your eyes and stroll around. Are you enjoying yourself? If not, that’s alright. Go inside and venture out another day. Maybe you need to go further afield, or try other things to spark some joy in nature.

These activities don’t depend on living in paradise. The concrete jungle has outdoor air, sunlight – even wildlife! (Just don’t try to feed the rats, please.) Part of learning to feel at home outside and to enjoy being there is recognizing how environments make you feel and what draws you in, as well as what makes you want to turn away. Knowing these things as a result of even a few moments outside can help you make positive associations with the outdoors.

Green 2.0: Learning to See, Part 1

13 09 2010
Window cleaner at work

Image via Wikipedia

What I’m about to write will insult some of you with its simplicity. It would probably insult me, to be honest. But don’t worry – I have a plan, and this is the first step. I’ll also be doing this with you, because everyone can benefit.

If you want to reconnect with nature, start by looking out of the nearest window. Really look. For as long as you can, at everything you can see. This is the first step to seeing your environment – the one you live in, every day.

I know some of you are probably saying, “my window shows the window next door [or brick wall, or commercial dumpster]. How does this teach me about my environment?” (By the way, I’ve been there!)

Sometimes we get up each morning and walk outside and drive away without even looking at what lies around our front door. Seeing what is there, and recognizing how it makes you feel, is a great first step to observing your world and learning what environments bring you joy.

Whether in the city or the country or the many places in between, look out all of your windows today. How does what you see make you feel? What thoughts come to mind? Are they pleasant? What can you do to make the view better? Where can you go to see more of the aspects you enjoy?

Maybe you can go right outside that window. That’s what we’ll discuss next.

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