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Tapping Into Nature Unnaturally: Bringing The Outside In

In today’s blog, learn about finding a variety of ways to access nature, even if you are unable to step foot outdoors.

It goes without say that with the pandemic circulating throughout the world, a majority of the population is staying at home. We are collectively in the solitary confinement of “Netflix and chill” and I don’t think I will ever think of that term the same way ever again. After we’ve all binge watched hours, days and weeks away, boredom sets in.

There is a beauty that comes with boredom, because boredom sets the mind to thinking. We start to think of what we are going to do to occupy our time, we start thinking of how we are going to ration our goods, how we are going to make something out of nothing, how we are going to become active, and how we are going to explore while having so many restrictions imposed on us.

And perhaps while reading this, you are truly stuck. You do not have the luxury of owning a home with a yard that allows you to set your bare feet on a patch of grass. Maybe you live in a city, and all of your access to nature trails and parks has been denied. You truly are in solitary confinement and the walls are closing in.

This is a reality for many around the world, making it very difficult to connect with nature.

Or perhaps you are struggling because government restrictions have limited your access to the natural world in ways that you are not used to and were truly looking forward to as the snow melts. Here in Ontario, we have been told that the whole province is a restricted fire zone. That is a huge bummer for many of us. We literally have fire pits in our own yards and have bonfires regularly. We have also been told that there is no camping on crown land any where in Ontario. Again, for many, this is incredibly disappointing because we spend a lot of time finding back roads that lead to isolated lakes were we can enjoy nature for days and sometimes weeks at a time. We just cannot have that right now. We are not allowed and it leads to a lot of anger, frustration, blame and a sense of hopelessness.

You know you’re a Canadian if you have a bonfire pit in your yard.

But I just want to throw it out there, that with a bit of creative thinking, there is hope and accessibility to the natural world, and ironically, it can be done electronically. I know it may sound ridiculous but here me out. I have some ideas on how you can bring nature into your home if you can’t get out of your home and I would like to share them with you. I will start with some practical, hands on ideas.

Get a Breath of Fresh Air

Let’s start with the most obvious and most important: turn off your furnace and air exchange, open up your windows and let fresh air flow through your home. In some areas it might still be a bit cold. For example, here in Red Lake, even though it is April the 15th as I write this, it is -14 C with the wind chill. Brrr. But sometimes it is that crisp blast of cold air that makes us wake up and realize that the sky has not (completely) fallen. (Just make sure you don’t have any plants near the windows. They can’t handle that cold air. Yup. I am talking from experience.) Even if you are in complete isolation, you can open up the window and connect with nature. Just look up and breath in.

Bring The Green Inside

I have noticed I pay much more attention to my usually neglected plants nowadays.

Speaking of plants, bring some green into your home with some beautiful houseplants. If you don’t have house plants, ask if anyone on your social platforms has slips of houseplants that they would be willing to share. Not only will having house plants help absorb toxins in the air, but will give you something to focus on that is a living, breathing thing. Talk to those plants to help with the feeling of loneliness and watch them thrive.

Get Your Veggie On

Do you see the little green leaf that is just starting to pop up?

An extension of that would be to consider an indoor garden. I have noticed that some areas around the world are not allowing people access to gardening supplies such as seeds and soil. I personally think that gardening items are more of an essential service now than most things, and everyone should have access to seeds. If you cannot order seeds or have any of your own, there is STILL a way of growing vegetables. (As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.) Simply re-use the vegetables you already have on hand. Tomato slices can be set in soil to become plants again. Celery and lettuce can re-grow in a cup of water. Simply Google “How to Regrow Store Bought Vegetables” and Bob’s your uncle.

Have a Scavenger Hunt

If you do not have a green thumb and prefer “Skip The Dishes”, that’s cool. There are still ways of bringing nature into your home. If you are allowed to access the outdoors, go on an solo, social distancing, nature collection tour (but do it quickly). Make yourself a list of the items from nature that mean the most to you and gather them. Perhaps you will place pinecones in a favourite bowl on your diningroom table. Maybe you will make a wreath of cedar boughs to hang on your door. Perhaps you will collect a rock or two and keep them in your pocket as a “worry stone”. Capture a little bit of the outdoors and bring it into your world. Just don’t bring home wildlife. That never goes over well, unless you’re Grizzly Adams.

This isn’t the kind of nature you want in your home.

But let’s imagine now that you do not have any access to the outdoors. You are literally dependent on whatever you have in your home, or whatever groceries you are allowed to access on a weekly basis. You are 100% stuck in your house with the internet at your disposal. (I just want to say as a side note, that I am incredibly understanding that there are people that do not have the privilege of the internet at their disposal. This blog is written under the assumption that you do have that access, since you are able to read this blog. I want to acknowledge that this is not the way for everyone and it truly should be.) What do you do to connect with the outdoors? This is truly where your creativity and imagination are going to be put to the test, as you will have to expand your mind and stretch your thinking in ways that perhaps you have not considered before.

Create a YouTube Virtual Reality

Get on the internet and create a virtual natural world for yourself. Head over to YouTube and type in phrases such as “virtual nature walk” or “sounds of nature”. I have included a few examples here for you to check out. Watch on a big screen and follow the paths you have been taken on and visualize yourself in that space. Make it even more realistic for yourself by opening up those windows and surround yourself with those plants that you’ve been given by your neighbours and friends! The beauty of virtual hikes is that you can basically be transported to different places all over the world. You can be a nature traveler in the comfort of your own home!

Step It Up a Notch, Literally

But perhaps you want to step it up a notch and have a true physical experience of hiking. Then stand up, fill up a back pack with gear, put on your shoes and walk on the spot, or on a treadmill. Stop occasionally and drink from your waterbottle or have a handful of berries, imagining that you just picked them fresh from the wilderness. Our brain is incredible at allowing us to believe what we see and feel, and can bring you incredibly close to having a “real life” experience in your own livingroom. Take it a step further and set up a tent in your yard or a blanket tent in your livingroom and imagine yourself sleeping under the stars (even if they’re glow in the dark stars), falling asleep to the sound of a babbling brooke. Microwave s’mores, because…s’mores. By the way, I have an awesome s’mores randomizer in my resource library if you want to have some fun creating different delicious s’mores for yourself. (If you are not a subscriber to my resource library, just click here to become one. Fill out the form and you’re in!)

Take Advantage of Free Apps

You can also access free apps that can bring you closer to nature. Learn about bird calls, identify pictures that you have snapped on past walks through INaturalist, and identify insects in your area. I simply typed “nature” into the search area on my phone’s app store and was bombarded with a variety of nature related free apps to explore.

Immerse Yourself In Literature

Read a book with nature as the theme. Practically any Canadiana I have read cannot help but have nature as the backdrop. Check out Martha Ostenso’s “Wild Geese” or Susanna Moodie’s “Roughing It In the Bush” (and then perhaps you won’t be as anxious to get outside into that wilderness. haha) Many libraries have online options which allow you to sign out books. Read some Farley Mowat or Jack London, Walt Whitman or Henry David Thoreau as you slowly digest each word and experience the land through someone else’s eyes.

I think it might be time to re-explore my library and dive into some Canadiana.

Recreate a Natural World For Yourself

If you have ever read the children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendack, then you’ll know that Max imagines his bedroom turning into a jungle full of wild creatures. Well, you can do the same. If you can get your hands on nature magazines, you can make yourself a nature based bulletin board. Fill up the board with collaged images of what you appreciate in nature. Add to it often, including words of appreciation, paintings, poems, cards, drawings and so forth. In the education world, teachers called an active bulletin board that constantly has information added to it a “living document”, which seems quite fitting. Your living document of what you appreciate in nature can be in a book, or completely cover a whole wall in your house! It is up to you and what you want to do with your living document to bring nature indoors.

Use Your Words

Take advantage of the workshops being given by creatives around the world. I have been taking workshops by the wonderful poet, Rupi Kaur. I stumbled across her workshop late one night while flipping through stories on Instagram. Through her writing exercises, I have been able to release a lot of frustration and confusion that has been smoldering deep in the back of my mind with the anxiety that Covid 19 brings. Through writing, I have been able to express my love and gratitude for the nature that I am surrounded by. It is helping me to feel like I will make it through with thoughts of nature on my mind. I will share one of my poems called “Snowshoes and Bullet Holes” with you in my resource library if you’re interested in checking it out.

This bullet riddled bucket became fodder for a poem I wrote.

Dabble into the World of Visual Art

Finally, take some time to interact with nature artistically. I have set up a “school” through a learning site called “Teachable”. There, I have a variety of workshops available, and some are directly related to nature such as painting northern lights or making a tree stump pot out of clay. It’s easy to register and I will be adding more courses regularly to help you connect to nature in new, creative ways.

Check out my northern lights painting workshop through Teachable.

I am hoping that some of the ideas I have provided will help you to feel like you can make it through this pandemic, even if you’re feeling incredibly restricted. As I have said to you in past blogs, sometimes we have to take detours to get to our goals, and sometimes those detours involve stretching our imagination and allowing our creative juices to take over for a while.

I wish you nothing but health but happiness. Please take care.

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