Connecting to Nature and Land Stewardship

When you think of the phrases “connect to nature” and “land stewardship”, what do you picture?

Most people will conjure up images of a wild forest and a secluded house with a garden outback, walking barefoot and singing to the plants. And while that is the ideal situation (and certainly my personal dream), you don’t have to be living secluded in the wild to have a nurtured relationship with your environment. Just like having any friendship, you have to work and keep up that connection to continue to receive the reciprocal benefits. That is a simplified analogy but I find that treating the land like a loved one helps me keep on going when the work feels overwhelming.

Land stewardship and connection to nature go hand in hand and feed off one another.

Connecting to nature often sounds very complicated and “woo woo”, but it used to be a regular part of societies in the not too distant past. When someone got a cut, the average person would go out and find yarrow or plantain to create a poultice, not scour their cabinet for Neosporin and a Band-aid. When someone had an upset stomach, they would chew on peppermint leaves or ginger, not chug Pepto-Bismol. I don’t say this to vilify conventional medicine because it certainly has its place, but with the ease of modern medicine in our world today, the average person does not know that plants are growing right in their backyard, in between the sidewalks, and pretty much all around us that can be just as effective and not disrupt our microbiome.

For thousands upon thousands of years, this is how our ancestors lived, in a sacred relationship with the land. And over time, as our communities grew bigger, and technology became an inseparable part of our everyday lives, we have slowly integrated almost all of our time being indoors. And what does our world look like now? Pollution in our air and water, mental illness and suicide rates skyrocketing, and a myriad of new health issues. Our ancestors and all those who came before us would never recognize the world we live in today. If you go back far enough, and in some cases not that far back, all peoples used to be a nature and natural element worshiping people. Just think about it: how would you treat the earth differently if you saw a higher power in the sun, a sibling in the flowers, a spiritual guardian in the moon?

This is especially important to teach our children. Currently, on average children aged 10 to 16 now spend only 12.6 minutes a day on vigorous outdoor activity compared with 10.4 waking hours being relatively motionless (childinthecity.org). What is that teaching them? The increase of new technology and “germaphobia” is teaching children to fear the outside, it’s dirty and full of scary things, and we should be inside on our phones and tablets (where it’s safe, of course). This leads to depression, trouble sleeping, higher stress levels, anxiety, and lowered immune systems. It is our responsibility to teach our children how we are a part of nature and how to care for it, just like it cares for us. We can lead by example, and rewild ourselves in the process.

worms eyeview of green trees

So what are some ways to connect to nature? It’s simple: get outside!
-Even if you live in a city, even if the weather is bad, just make it a habit. Breath that fresh air, and notice all of the plants around you. Chickweed and plantain often grow in the cracks in the sidewalk, yarrow and milk thistle thrive on the sides of roads, and all sorts of moss’ and lichens can be found on trees in and outside of the city.

-Show your littles all of the mystery and majesty that is growing right outside their door. Teach them how to ask permission (and actually listen for an answer) before picking a plant, and then go and harvest plants for a meal or an herbal preparation. There is something magical that happens when you get your hands on plants and use all of your senses to experience them.

-If you can get outside, I recommend tending to a tree within walking distance of your home. Sit under them and meditate, bring them water and other gifts, speak to them and tell them how beautiful they are. Even if you don’t feel or hear anything from them, I can almost guarantee you will learn something.

-Another way of connecting is through learning about the plants and an agricultural connection to the land. Visit farms, talk to the vendors at your local farmers market, research what species are native to your area and what grows well. Also, learn about the native peoples of the land you are occupying. What plants do they use for crafting, eating, and medicine? How does their relationship to the land differentiate from ours? How do their spiritual beliefs impact their daily life and the land around them?

Now, what if you can’t leave your house?
You can connect to house plants, open your windows and connect with those you can see, or even use dried herbs if you are in a pinch. Sit with your plants or herbs and meditate. Share with them your energy and love and see what happens. They may not speak to you, but just the act of showing your appreciation can be powerful.

At some point, you may get to where the spirits of the land and plants may reach out to you. As adults whose creativity and imagination have often been stifled, it can be hard to open up to such experiences. This is where your children come in. This is your chance to give them the gift we probably did not receive. Kids are naturally incredibly intuitive, and by teaching and cultivating your children’s natural abilities, they can grow up to be strong, in tune, loving adults. They can grow up to find new solutions to the problems our and generations passed have started.

Land stewardship is becoming a more popular idea over the past few years. As our children grow up seeing trash on the side of the road, lakes too polluted to play in, and smog-filled skies, it is becoming more and more important for us to teach our children to be better land stewards.

The basic building blocks of good land stewardship are healthy soil, clean water and air, and biological diversity. It is a big task but even the smallest steps truly help and build better habits for the future. I remember as a child, we would go on walks in our neighborhood with trash bags just in case we came upon any trash. I was also taught the importance of recycling and not using single-use plastic if possible. Those are basic concepts but they can be expanded to more complex ideas you can pass on to your kids.

Composting is a great way to reuse your scraps and show your kids the reciprocity of the earth. We borrow from the earth, we use what we can, and we return what we cannot. It also teaches an important lesson: we don’t always have to consume everything just because it is there, and we should share our resources. That can be expanded to other purchasing practices, hunting and fishing, and all other forms of consumerism. Plant bee-loving flowers, stop using pesticides, trim back sad-looking or dying plants to encourage new growth, or naturally fertilize your soil. There are many small things we can do to show the land our appreciation and give back.

But this is not just about teaching the children. It is about us as well! Modern society keeps us away from nature, away from connecting to our roots and wombs and plant allies. By focusing on the earth and her health, we are pulling away from the hustle and bustle, and renewing our priorities and power.
We are a part of the earth.
When she is sick, we are sick.
When she thrives, we thrive.
She is the greatest womb of all, and when we connect to her, our womb lights up. I have found so much strength, healing, and rewilding by focusing on nature and her natural cycles.
The plants and animals are part of our long-lost family. It is time to really listen, and find that magic in connection again.

***All information and content on this site are presented for educational and entertainment purposes only. Nothing presented on this site is intended to constitute or be used as a substitute for advice from a licensed medical professional and should not be taken as such. If you are experiencing any medical emergency including possible envenomation, please contact your local emergency services immediately. Always consult with your primary care physician before beginning any herbal treatment.***

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