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7: Nature Awareness Essay
My connection to nature has been exceptionally strong ever since I was a little girl. I grew up on a farm away from neighbors or other children but we had acres of property full of trees and fields and amazing areas to explore. At all times, but especially in times of stress, sadness or frustration, I would run through the property against the wind, climb trees barefoot, collect countless wild flowers, catch salamanders, grasshoppers, field mice, garter snakes and frogs or simply lie in the grass and watch the clouds go by. I worked with my hands in a garden, and ran everywhere barefoot. I loved every bit of it and swore I would never live in a big city.
I spent large portions of my adolescent years hiking, spelunking, camping, and traveling during the summer; I developed a deep passion for waterfalls and caves, the highest of places and the lowest of places. I thanked the rain for its ability to keep Oregon lush and green.
As an adult, I moved to the city. I feared I would lose this connection to nature once I was surrounded by housing, businesses, cars and people but I discovered that there is a true blessing to Oregon. No matter the city you live, you are never more than 30 min from an untamed wilderness. From the heart of the city I could still visit the ocean, the mountains, the Columbia Gorge, caves and the desert. The rain still fell, even in the city, and the color green still ruled above all others along the roadsides. I had not lost my connection, but I had to learn to appreciate the small elements of nature when it was my only option.
As a woman with anxiety issues, stress and countless other frustrations, nature helps me slow down. When I need to reset mentally, I only have to walk outside my home. It doesn't take much to help me connect. It can be as simple as a breeze hitting my cheek, noticing a spiderweb on a shrub by my front door, the “Caw!” of a crow (or any other bird), the firey colors of autumn leaves, the smell of wet earth, a flower coming into bloom, the warm sun or cool moonlight shining down on me, or a mollusk crossing the pavement. Any one of these tiny elements of nature is enough to calm me and I feel the intense, individual nature spirits all around me. I feel the nature spirits like a pulsing vibration, always there when I take the time to listen.
I honor this relationship to the Nature Spirits, and to the Earth itself by making offerings often when I am out and about. I’ll water plants that are in need, I mourn trees cut down and animals unnaturally killed and I speak words of remembrance to them. I volunteer with organizations to help plant trees and clean up city and state parks. I get my hands dirty, so to speak, in offering of my physical self to the spirits of the land. I sing with them, I talk to them; I do not view nature as something for me to control, but for me to be a part of. I smile, laugh, and offer respect to all living things. Since starting the Dedicant Path, I have also started taking hikes into the forest and building natural shrines and mandalas with forest items as artistic offerings to the spirits. Another new addition to my practice is creating a space where I put out birdseed regularly for the avian species near my home.
I am constantly trying to find ways in which my lifestyle can affect the environment in positive ways. I have started eating less meat cutting down the need for agricultural expansion cutting into forests. I have been eating mostly local in-season produce from markets that cut down on transport pollution and support local ecosystems. I have been using heat less in my own home to help cut down on the use of energy that is not green. I take public transit exclusively now to help cut down on CO2 emissions. I find any way to volunteer my self to nature restoration and spend a large amount of time identifying natural plants and teaching others. My lifestyle has had Nature Awareness at its forefront for the past decade, which is one reason ADF Druidry called to me in the first place.
On a local level I can make a tremendous difference. As mentioned above, by supporting local agriculture and eating produce within season, I am cutting down the need for vast transport of foods. I can also make an effort to cut down as much trash as possible by refraining from disposable (individually packaged) items and choosing re-usable items instead. This cuts down on trash in our ever-expanding landfills. I can help by volunteering my time to ocean clean-ups, wildlife conservation areas, forestry centers, park restoration efforts. Even picking up litter is a big help. This year, much thanks to additional Nature focus with my Dedicant Path, I have Earth Day events scheduled the entire month of April. Also, I have started taking classes on plants as natural foods and medicines because I deeply feel that understanding the plants of earth the way our ancestors did is one of the most ancient roots of a modern druid.
"Tree of Life grow strong within us." We are all children of the great Mother Earth and to show the virtue of Hospitality and the concept of "Ghosti," we need to tend to our reciprocal guest-host relationship. For if we fall short of being gracious guests in her beautiful home and warm loving arms then the repercussions will be dire on our end.