June 6, 2016

10 Tips to Help Us Connect to the Scary, Magical Otherness of Nature.

Gouthaman Raveendran/Unsplash

“We kill all the caterpillars, then complain there are no butterflies.”

This observation—made by a rural teenager in Australian author John Marsdens’ popular teen fiction novel, “The Dead of the Night,”—is a simple, but loaded statement about our growing disconnect with nature. Are we humans really so self-absorbed, ignorant and unaware of the consequences of our lifestyle choices?

And if so, why?

When we grow up connected to the land, when we experience nature in our day-to-day life, we are more inclined to experience awe rather than fear when confronted with natures “otherness.” It is a perspective that we, as a species, need to encourage and embrace.

I believe the greatest service we can do the environment is to educate others not to be so afraid of it and to recognize our place in it. We need to embrace, take notice and live with it.


A lot of people mistakenly think everything in the natural world is out to kill us, and while this could just be willful ignorance, I suspect it more than likely comes down to a lack of education. Beyond this, I believe that the general loss of connection to nature is partly to blame for many not considering their impact on the planet as significant. Just being aware of how we fit into a natural system will make us more aware of all the little things we do in our day that harm the planet.

Some of these things are difficult to fix. However simply noticing our impact can be enough for us to consider the alternatives. Reducing plastic in our life, riding a bicycle to work or replacing some of our lawn with food or habitat are great examples of new awareness.

Here are 10 more ways to connect with nature on a daily basis:

1. Stop

For a few minutes, stop and take in what is around you. Feel the breeze, the sunshine, take your shoes off, go outside and walk on the grass, even stand in the rain. It’s amazing how calming it can be to just stop for one minute.

2. Look Up

At the cloud formations, the trees, the sky. Watch the birds—I love seeing birds at play, how small birds react to birds of prey or the impressive dance of a male bird trying to impress the ladies.

3. Look Down

At the leaves on the ground, the insects, small lizards, fungi. You could be missing a whole drama series if you never look down. There are millions of things going on down there, from ants prepping for a storm to hundreds of different species of colorful fungi, mosses and lichen.

4. Smell the Roses

Literally smell the flowers. Crush a leaf in your fingers and smell it—many plants have the most beautiful scents. Take a moment and smell the environment around you, especially after rain.

5. Listen

Don’t get mad that the birds woke you up or the frogs are so loud you can’t hear the television. Feel privileged that you have a suitable environment around you that birds and frogs are happy enough to join you. Just relax, take it all in and maybe wonder what they’re chatting about.

6. Hug a Tree

No really, give a tree a hug or at least a pat. I can’t help myself when walking past a big Eucalyptus or Fig tree—I always give it a little tap of approval to show my appreciation.

7. Appreciate it All

I could go on forever about this one. Worms, ants and flies are the big cleaners in nature—if it wasn’t for these guys there would be dead things lying around all over the place. Think about those big trees you cannot fit your arms around and how they were born from a minuscule seed but are now 25 times taller than you, capable of surviving strong winds and living for 200 plus year. Now that is amazing!

8. Confront Your Fears

The fact is, some things in nature are dangerous. However our level of fear is not always realistic. What we can do to combat this is learn about the creatures that frequent our garden, what plants can hurt us and what is safe. Then go out there and pick one of those little creatures up. Get up close and connect with the spiders, bugs or beetles. Remember that not all trees will fall over, burn, block pipes or crush your car. Not enjoying the beautiful things close to you because of the fear of something that in all likelihood will never happen is just, well, sad.

9. Be Active

Take up something that gets you out in nature—rock climbing, abseiling, surfing, mountain bike riding, kayaking, snorkelling, nature photography or bush walking are all amazing ways to enjoy the outdoors. By participating in these sports, we encounter parts of nature that most people will only ever see on television. I have crystal clear memories of watching a lyre Bird construct a nest, paddling near a humpback whale and surfing with countless dolphins and seals.

10. Feel Connected

Most importantly of all, realize that you are part of a system that includes both the scary things and the cuddly things. They are made of the same elements as you. Keep in mind that what you take from the environment should go back into it, completing the cycle of life and death. And remember that what fuels our bodies should come from a healthy, natural system. We evolved to be outside, hunting and foraging, so get out there and do what we were born to do.

“The good man is the friend of all living things.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi


Author: Paul Hellier

Editor: Nicole Cameron

Image: Gouthaman Raveendran/Unsplash

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