I am sitting in a low-slung chair, tucked into the shade of a corner nook in my backyard. It has become my favorite place to simply be, a space where I am learning to pause and listen and breathe. Even with the white sound of the distant freeway, my backyard is my sanctuary from the noise. The late afternoon light is warm but not hot for my bare feet resting on the inlayed brick patio. I am encompassed by the scent of fresh lilacs. Soft tufts of blossoms burst from three large tree-like shrubs that edge this sitting spot. I close my eyes and listen. I hear Chickadees flitting between newly leafed aspens. Mourning Doves gently coo from the wires above. A slight breeze plays the high notes of the windchime. The sporadic rhythm of last night’s rain drips from the shed roof. I hear the subtle flash of wings and open my eyes. A Robin has arrived, her head tilted and turned so her shiny black eye is looking in my direction. I stay perfectly still and watch as she makes her way across the small patch of grass and clover. With three hops and a pause, Robin dips her beak into the still-damp ground and plucks up a beak full of earthen material. Then, she takes a few more hops and pauses before lifting off onto the edge of the fence. She disappears behind the lilacs.
Watering the Earth with Our Tears, Wrenna Rose
I get up from my sitting spot and say hello to a small mound of moss at the edge of the yard. Moss is one of the most miraculous beings. She thrives despite the fact that she completely dries out each summer. Her presence is a testament to resilience, a small pocket of flourishing. I look up at the sky. It looks like rain. Moss will appreciate the moisture and so will I. I take another deep whiff of spring. It smells like renewal.
I survey this parcel of land that I have the honor of tending. It is the first place in my adult life where I feel rooted and held by the land, much like my childhood in the woods. This is the place where I learned about honorable stewardship. It is an awareness that now extends beyond my yard. This is the place where I learned to garden. I learned ways to heal the land and cultivate sustainable systems of support. It is the place where I healed layers of trauma and reclaimed my sense of self. This place is where I grew a deep intimacy with the interconnection of life. I continue to witness the seasonal rhythms. I sense the everyday sacred and commune with nature’s messengers. I can listen past the daily noise and into the heart of life. I celebrate the beauty and experience the loss that comes with tender impermanence. This place is where I rekindled my sense of wonder and deepened my sense of belonging. This nook of yard is where I unfurled into my wholeness and rediscovered my place in the world.
A strong connection with our environment rests at the heart of a healthy life and the health of our Earth. Whatever leads to our disconnect, that detachment from nature makes us less likely to invest in her health and wellness. So how can we nurture a sense of place? How can we develop and deepen our connection with the natural world, regardless of where we live?
One way we can stay connected is to find and tend to the small and large pockets of flourishing. We can begin with getting to know the natural spaces around us. Start with something small—your yard, the closest park or green space, a community garden, a favorite beach or spot in the forest, a nearby field. You can even start with planting and growing something from seed in a container beside your window or on a patio. Revisit that pocket of nature as often as you can and across the seasons. Allow yourself enough time to sit, feeling connected with the ground below you. Tune into the sights, sounds, scents, and sensations that are alive within that nook of nature. Be patient. You may need to listen and feel past the noise of modern life. Deepen your attention to life moving through that space. Notice the way you feel when you connect with nature in this way. What changes over time? What cycles and rhythms do you notice? What happens in your body as you drop into the natural world? Allow curiosity into your observations. Dig deeper into learning the names of the flora and fauna. What native plants are growing in this space? What birds do you see or hear? What trees can you name? Be open to talking or singing to the trees or the birds or the wind. Allow yourself the gift of connecting with the natural world in a reciprocal way. Let her feel your presence and the gift of your attention. Extend this awareness to other natural spaces.
My sense of place deepened when I spent time in the same space over many seasons. The corner nook of my yard became my favorite sitting place because it was accessible any time of year. The more time I spent in that one spot, the more I noticed what came and went through my yard. I became curious about the birds and insects that gathered in my yard, as well as ways to attract more life. That inquiry led to returning my plot of land to a more wild, natural state with plants that thrive in my climate. By regenerating the land with healthy soil and native plants, my yard became a refuge for pollinators, local and migrating birds, and beneficial insects.
This experience awakened my consciousness and ignited a desire to better understand what I can do to help heal and regenerate our connection with the natural world. Though I am a seedling in the spiral of ecological awareness, I am devoted to growing and learning. The more I learn, the greater my desire to scatter seeds of awareness. I want to help others deepen their sense of place and reconnect with our sacred Earth. It is a process that grows from the ground up—one moment of awareness, one pocket of flourishing, one patch of land, and one seed at a time. Will you join me in scattering the seeds?
Dance for Renewal, Wrenna Rose