If you follow us on Instagram, it won't take you long to notice that we post about nature... a lot! We don't just do that because we love spending time outdoors and learning about the natural world; we post about nature because we believe that feeling a connection with it is the first (and most crucial) step toward shifting to a sustainable and conscious lifestyle. You can be given all the eco-tips in the world, but none of them will hold any weight and make it into your daily lifestyle unless you feel a personal connection to the ecosystems they're meant to protect.
Many of us live in a city and aren't super excited about the idea of camping for the weekend or hiking in the woods. Well, you're in luck! Nature is all around us (even in the city) and connecting with it is much easier than you think; all it takes is a little bit of awareness and intention. Helping people discover this connection is something we'll be focusing on in the future, but in the meantime here are some fun things you may not have thought about to spark that friendship with nature!
Treasure nature's daily wonders: Get up early and watch the sunrise
We're all guilty of being desensitized and taking things like sunrises, rainbows, and lighting storms for granted, but just because we witness nature's wonders every day, doesn't mean they're any less grand and amazing!
Earlier this year, we got up early to watch the sun rise over the Dallas skyline (for anyone living in the city, the Trinity Overlook is a great place to do it). We were reminded of how peaceful and soothing it is to start your day with a sunrise. We put a blanket down and sat surrounded by prairie grass that was about two feet tall, which made the sun coming up behind the city that much more magical.
Next time you do this, notice how calm you feel as you sit and watch the sun rise above the horizon. That "feeding the soul" moment is a peek into the nature connection we're talking about!
Notice the animals (big and small) around you and remember they all have an important role to play
You don't have to go walking through the forest to see and appreciate wildlife; even the smallest of creatures play an important role in nature's ecosystems and you can find them all around you! Two unsung natural heroes that we see all the time are bees and worms.
Unless you're allergic to bees (if you're not sure if you are, please be cautious), don't be afraid of having a couple buzz around you, and definitely don't default to swatting them out of the sky! When we're gardening, we're always among bees enjoying our native plants, and in the last several years I've only been stung once (that's a cool story for another time). Bees, for the most part, are very calm and are happy to flower hop and mind their own business. And let's not forget that they're single handedly responsible for the reproduction of many plant species and for the availability of many of the fruits and vegetables that we eat.
Worms are the other ecosystem workhorse we love running into. For a gardener, finding a worm in your garden is like receiving a little present, and when I saw this guy on the right, it was like opening Santa’s gift on Christmas morning!
Worms in your garden are a great sign of the overall health of your soil and in turn the garden’s ecosystem. Worms help aerate your soil, which makes it easier for plant roots to take hold and for water to permeate through. They also help decompose organic matter and return those precious nutrients back to the soil. So next time you see a worm, catch yourself before saying "Ew!" and instead say thank you! The more worms you see and the larger they are, the better!
Let nature remind you of the important lessons in life
The closer you look and the more you pay attention, you'll be surprised by how often you can learn lessons from the plants and animals you see.
When we saw this gorgeous Pink Evening Primrose (Onagraceae), it made us think of how universal the concept of resilience is. We’re definitely having to shoulder our fair share of resilience during these times, but is seems like we could learn a little something from this Primrose! Even in the smallest of concrete cracks, it’s thriving! If this doesn’t give you hope, we don’t know what will.
This Primrose also reminded us that there’s really no such thing as a weed. Our arbitrary perspective is the only thing that differentiates a “weed” from a perfectly positioned plant. We sometimes like to think of these so called weeds as volunteers. They’re always the ones who raise their hands and volunteer to fill in the cracks and live in the harsh conditions that other plants pass on. It's interesting how much our perspective can influence the value we place on something.
Don't be afraid to slow down every once in a while (the snail says it's okay)
Recently it feels like life has been going at a snail’s pace, which has been frustrating and discouraging to say the least. But watching this snail go about his very slow-moving business made us think that maybe slow isn't so bad after all, and it's certainly no less fascinating!
When you go on a walk around the park or in the woods, do you actually take time to observe nature around you, or do you just zoom by trying to get to the end of the trail? We’re all guilty of squeezing in some exercise and calling it “time with nature,” but the true magic happens when you actually stop and observe. Nature may not communicate the way we do, but once you get to know it better, you’ll start to recognize all the different things it’s trying to tell you, and the first step toward doing that is slowing down a bit.
On a recent walk through a forest in the Cross Timbers ecoregion, we came across some amazing trees and the organisms they support, which all had something to say! This image is of a polypore mushroom (Coriolos versicolor) also commonly known as turkey tail mushroom. This mushroom breaks down decaying matter, so when it appears on a tree trunk like this one, that’s a clear message that the tree isn’t a young and healthy chap. It probably has a good amount of decaying matter inside and doesn’t have too much longer to live. Yes, this is a bit sad, but it’s also pretty amazing!
The image on the bottom right is of lichen growing on a tree trunk; lichen is actually a symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae. We love seeing lichen because it’s an indicator of good air quality. It absorbs many air pollutants (yes, it's cleaning the air for us so give it a huge thank you), and its population is quite diminished in areas where air quality is bad — hence why you don’t see it much in the cities. So next time you’re walking on a trail surrounded by nature, take time to listen! If you see something interesting, Google it (or ask us and maybe we can help). Slowly but surely you’ll start to recognize these little nature whispers and your hikes will take on a whole new meaning!
And most importantly, be happy and enjoy your nature time!
Nature is happy, and you should feel happy when you're around it!
If you allow yourself to really be with nature, you'll feel calm, grounded, and peaceful. And when you see something that really cracks you up or makes you smile, enjoy the moment; nature is full of surprises! This little Ananas nanus (miniature pineapple) for example, always makes us smile.
We've heard claims that connecting with nature is only for "tree huggers," or people saying that it's a "granola" person's pastime. Well, we beg to differ! Each of us is born with an innate connection to nature, which only needs a little bit of attention to flourish. If you think this connection doesn't apply to you, then ask yourself, "Do you require air to breathe and food to eat?" We all have a connection to nature because we are nature.