Wild Child Lost
When you're the girl that is always barefoot, can be found tromping through the creek during the summer, and more than likely running around with a reptile or insect of some sort, you quickly earn the titles "wild child" and "tomboy". I was always "that" girl. The one that her grandmother had to explain to the reason why she could no longer run around outside without a shirt on during the hot days just before starting Kindergarten. The one that excitedly brought in toads, grass snakes, and a variety of insects to show the adults. The one that would lie down on the back patio at night during the summer when the tarantulas were out so that I might get lucky and one would crawl on me.
I was never one that was content to be inside. If the weather was permitting, and truthfully, lots of times when the adults said it wasn't, you would find me outside. The Texas heat never seemed to bother me as a child nor did the cold or the rain. It was almost like I was completely impervious to the weather. Being outside was going home as opposed to the indoors that just felt stifling. If I wasn't outside, I wasn't happy. There are times that I remember simply sitting in the dirt and just "being". I would listen to all of nature's sounds and see how many I could identify. I was a true wild child. Bare feet caked with mud, dirt under my fingernails, and my hair a tangled mess. Yep. That was me.
I lived every day for those simple childhood pleasures, the ones we took for granted back then. Remember what if feels like to squish mud between your toes or the feeling of the sun on your face as you lie in the cool grass? What about sitting under a big shade tree looking at picture books, reading them as you got older, or even climbing that tree? How about being out all day playing and then begging to stay out just a little longer for dusk so that you could see the fireflies? Making mud pies, digging up earthworms, and playing with rolly pollies, that was where my little heart was happy and my soul was calm. It was an aching, desperate need that I never could get enough of.
The Disconnect From Nature
In my short 42 years, I have been witness to a huge disconnect from nature in society. This is beginning with childhood and progressing from there. My need to be outside, immersed in nature has never diminished. If anything, it has only gotten stronger over the years, however, I had to "grow up" and "act my age". I remember hitting 6th grade and being shocked that there wasn't a "recess" time. You spent all day inside the school (which eventually lead to anxiety for me but that's a topic for Part 2 of this post). This is how it was from 6th grade until the day I graduated high school. You didn't get any time to just simply sit outside and be. If you played sports then there was, of course, time out of doors if that sport required it but the volleyball girls were content to run laps around the gym (thankfully I played tennis). Any real, quality time that you got to be outside was to be done on your own time, weekends, and such. Not many people I knew wanted that though. Girls wanted to go to the mall and the boys were usually where the girls were. I had obligations to attend to outside of school... homework, boyfriend, girlfriends, work, and chores at home. Even with all of that, I still tried to find little ways to get in some time outside. When the weather was nice, I would sit at a small table that I got at a second-hand store for the back patio to do homework. I offered to mow the lawn for my parents just so I could have that precious hour in the sunshine. Needless to say, my time with nature grew less and less the older I got.
The really scary thing is, most people don't realize that this is happening or if they do, they simply accept it as part of life, the "growing up process". I keep asking myself how and why we let this happen. Maybe we would like to forget where it is we came from. While we are "so much more civilized" today, we are doing more harm to ourselves than good. As we "grew up" we began to disengage from the natural world. We were once a people that spent the majority of our time outside in nature, being one with it, appreciating it, and letting it help us to provide for ourselves and our families. How did it become a luxury to have enough leisure time to be able to play outside, hiking, camping or simply sitting and reading under that tree? Maybe you plan a family vacation once a year to some outdoorsy type location but that does not give us the time outside that we need, that our bodies and souls crave on a level that we once understood but have somehow forgotten or choose to ignore. Our need to feel evolved and civilized fuels this disconnect from nature, setting us back more than we realize. We called the Native Americans savages because of the way they lived but in reality, they are the ones that still had it right.
Another huge contributing factor in the Nature Disconnect is our need to have more. We want bigger homes, fancier cars and just more stuff in general. Why does anyone NEED a closet that is as big as my childhood bedroom filled with clothing that they will probably never wear, shoes, purses, and other accessories? The simple fact is that they don't, but feel like they do. This means that someone is putting in more hours at the office to help pay for all of that. More time at the office means less leisure time and in turn, less nature time. I hear people say, "I would
hike if I had more free time." Meanwhile, I'm looking at their designer suit, $65,000 car and their 5,500 square foot house thinking, "Maybe if you weren't chained to your office to pay for all of your "needs", you would have more free time." This is where that "luxury time" comes in. What are people doing in the precious little time that they have away from work? The "American Dream" has become the "American Greed". I do want to make one thing clear here though, I in no way look down on those people that have large houses or drive fancy cars. I am simply saying that you cannot state that you wish to have more time to be in nature and choose to remain chained to your desk. We make time for the things that are truly important to us.
Our obsession with electronics and social media is yet another topic to acknowledge when discussing our disconnect from nature. We somehow feel the need or urge to be connected all of the time. The "connected" has become misplaced. I make jokes about people having their cell phones surgically implanted if possible. We can always be reached by phone, email, messenger apps, texts, ect. We spend our weekends binge-watching the hottest shows on Netflix and our children can't go one day without the television or their tablets. Yes, I had Saturday morning cartoons but I would watch my two favorites and then be outside for the rest of the day. Yes, I
watch television a couple of nights a week but the other nights, I spend time with my dog at the park or sitting outside reading. I spend my weekends hiking, biking, and/or skiing. Children, in general, spent way more time outside playing, getting dirty, riding bicycles, and just being children. Now children are spending their time on the computer or attached to their gaming system. We are using devices like IPads and our smartphones to keep our children happy while at the grocery store and then at home so that Mom or Dad can get work emails typed out on a Saturday afternoon when they should be engaging the kids in something outside instead. While it is true that no one ever had to tell me to go outside and play, the parents of today need to do a better job of encouraging their children to do just that. I know this is a lot to ask considering the fact that those adults themselves are less engaged with nature. For many young adults and even those a bit older, nature has become nothing more than a hashtag, the perfect Instagram photo, or likes on Facebook.
The Need for Repairing the Nature Disconnect
While I understand that my need to be outside may be greater than that of the general population, I cannot be the only person that has suffered from the disconnect from nature. Every one of us needs contact with nature in some way to be healthy and whole. I cannot be the only person that is taking note of what is happening to us because of this. Studies show a rise in depression and anxiety throughout society in general. There is now scientific evidence that proves time in nature helps to heal. It lowers anxiety, blood pressure, and helps with depressive episodes. Providing help with these issues is just the beginning of what nature offers in the way of healing our minds, bodies, and souls.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of The Disconnect from Nature where I will be discussing the problems associated with the disconnect and how to help heal it and yourself.
Peace, Love, and Light. Blessed Be.
** Please note that while I may discuss nature's ability to heal, I am not a licensed doctor or therapist. Please seek professional medical help if you are experiencing depression or severe anxiety. **