HEDGEROW GAZING - FUCHSIA
Whilst the news rages and restrictions are placed us on left, right and centre, it’s easy to feel caged in. But, despite the seemingly unending waves of uncertainty, on our doorsteps, we do have one constant. Whatever else is going on in the world, nature carries on, undeterred.
Forced onto a treadmill of variations of the same few daily walks, throughout this strange year I’ve challenged myself to accept my surroundings, look deeper, meet the world half-way.
Out on walks, I’ve attempted to slow down, to look into the verges, to hedgerow-gaze, to stop and tilt my head and look up into the trees. I’ve been coaxing myself to take out my phone and snap small details I might never have noticed if my head was down and I had my usual, blinkered stomp on.
As the seasons have changed - and my eyes have adjusted to the green screen - I’ve noticed the opening of blossom, the flowering of herbs, the sprouting of trefoil from kerbside cracks. I was there the day the field maple’s leaves began to turn gold, took note as hazelnuts carpeted the paths through the woods.
Newly curious, I’ve spent evenings flicking through wild food books. I’ve scoured websites, seeking to put names to plants I’ve spotted out and about, scrolling on for a sneak peek of what I might discover next, what can be gathered, cooked with, tasted. This year, I’ve learnt that yarrow’s feathery leaves were once used to staunch wounds. That hawthorn berries are bland and powdery, That freshly dried camomile makes the most delicious tea.
Whilst my parents took me blackberry picking and sloe hunting when I was small, this year, I’ve been extending my relationship with the world on my doorstep, learning the flavour of previously untried weeds and edible wildflowers, and gaining newfound respect for the shiny red fruits I was warned not to put into my mouth as a child.
I’ve learned to savour the intimacy of leaning into bushes to clutch at rosehips, trusting their branches to hold me. I’ve traced the smooth, firm skin of a surprise puffball mushroom, crushed wild marjoram between my fingers and let it’s scent rise up my nose.
There’s a frustration in staying put, but it’s also an opportunity to break the ice. Foraging, I’ve found, is like taking the time to say ‘hello’ to a neighbour. It’s an acknowledgement of our surroundings, rather than a stride straight past. A wave to a passer-by. A knowledge that comes from a deeper connection.
Irreversibly opening my eyes to the companions we live alongside feels like an acceptance of our strange reality and a good intention for the future. A way to treat this time of uncertainty as an awakening, rather than a closing down.
Natalie Rossiter (MBACP accred) is a counsellor in private practice. She is also a Mindfulness teacher and Nature Connection Guide, working towards her Advanced Diploma in Shinrin Yoku (Forest Bathing).
Her website is www.natalierossiterwellbeing.co.uk
You can connect on instagram @natalierossiterwellbeing
NATURE CONNECTION & MENTAL HEALTH - NATALIE ROSSITER
“I’m going for a walk” – a simple enough statement to most, but this last year has shown us just how many different types of walking there is. Are you going on a countryside hike? To the shops? Is this a walk round the park, chatting with friends? Nordic walking? Is this a walk to move your body or to shift something in your mind?
You see, going for a walk and being connected to nature are not necessarily the same thing. The difference is Mindfulness; being present and noticing your surroundings. I think all types of walking have their benefits, but if we’re wanting to walk to improve mental health then we must include nature connection. As part of my Shinrin Yoku (Forest Bathing) practitioner training I’ve spent the last year doing guided walks and studying how nature supports our mental health. There is now a wealth of research that supports what our intuition tells us – that being in nature is good for us.
I cannot help but notice the parallels between our health – both mental and physical – and the health of the planet. We are both hurting. It is my belief, based on the biophilia theory and other research, that to heal ourselves we must do so in connection with nature. If health is about wholeness then splitting ourselves off from nature – of which we are intrinsically a part – can only deeply wound us. How many clients come to us with feelings of meaninglessness, disconnection, burnout and depression? Of course there are many causes for these things that each need addressing but I know that nature connection must be a part of the healing process, if the client is open to it.
What does ‘nature connection’ look like. Sure, it can be hugging a tree, but that’s not for everyone! It’s actually incredibly simple and not particularly hippish at all. The easiest way to practice nature connection anywhere is to use your senses. You can do this walking around your neighbourhood, in your garden, at the park or beach or forest; anywhere outside really. Notice what you can see; stop to take in the details of a leaf or watch a bee visit a flower. Listen to the wind and the birds. Feel a smooth leaf or soft petal or the grass between your toes. Smell the blossom and the rain. Breathe in the fresh air. These simple acts of noticing can invoke feelings of calm, awe, joy, curiosity and happiness. They bring us into the present moment and reduce rumination. Above all they help us to feel connected to something outside of ourselves. Something alive, meaningful, important. We can’t care about what we don’t feel connected to, whether that’s ourselves or the planet or both. As Roger Keys writes in the beautiful poem ‘Hokusai Says’ : “it matters that you care. It matters that you notice. It matters that you feel.”