In my head this is a neat collection of thoughts and experiences that I have had over the last week. In reality I am not a "neat collection" sort of person and this is a jumbled box of odds and ends with a random bit of string tangled up amongst it. In this scenario, the random bit of string tying it all together is nature.
I've had a few conversations about walking this week and once again it has occurred to me that not everyone walks for pleasure. The Living Streets webinar that I attended this week opened with a list of the reasons why walking matters, which included getting to net zero, our physical and mental health, to further social and economic justice and to build the local economy. We were also able to talk about some of the issues that stop people going for a walk even when they want to; poor infrastructure, uncleared paths, safety, a lack of places to stop. One (tongue in cheek) solution to the problem with delivery vans parking on pavements, was the idea of a place where people could go to collect post; they even suggested a name for it - a Post Office. I have to admit that I am really guilty of ordering things online but I am now making a conscious effort to try and make my first port of call the local shops and not the internet. I've been having some great chats with walking colleagues on the subject of walking and nature connection, and how the two go hand in hand, both in towns and in the countryside. Paths for All are currently running a 3 Good Things in Nature competition, so head over to their website to be in with a chance of winning and to check out their Walking with Nature resources.
Following on from last week, I was lucky enough to spend Thursday evening in the virtual company of Lev Parikian who was being interviewed as part of The Resurgence Trust bookclub. The conversation was as delightful as I hoped (you can find a recording of the event here) and covered the background to writing the book, as well as the process of he used to immerse himself in each of the 72 seasons of the year. Planned well before the pandemic, he unexpectedly ends up writing a vast portion of the book during the 2020 lockdowns which gives a familiar lens to how he uses the outdoors, the way I guess many of us did during 2020, as an escape, as a distraction, as something to do. When he is feeling particularly unable to focus, he employs techniques to encourage him to notice more. In one section he sets himself what he calls "observational homework" - looking for square things or smooth things or green things, takes photos of them and then assembles them into a collage where he is able to notice details that he had not noticed when he was outside. He spends five minutes just listing out all the things he can hear. A way to block out the background noise of a fractious mind, and a variation on a theme of many mindfulness practices. I'm only a few pages into my latest book Everybody Needs Beauty: In Search of the Nature Cure by Samantha Walton, but already she has experienced the classic natural mindfulness exercise, lying in nature and looking, listening, feeling, hearing and tasting. From the review I read, this book isn't just about the really wild places (although Alex Honnold of Free Solo fame does get a mention, but I don't think she is suggesting that anyone should take up free solo climbing as a way to connect with nature) but also covers gardens and parks and even virtual nature. As always I can't wait to get stuck in.
Early on in the pandemic when I could take no more of The Today Programme, I switched our regular radio station to Radio 3, and I love the wide variety of music - and the fact that the news only lasts a minute! This morning my partner called me into the kitchen, and I was greeted by "the rainbow song" (not its official title) from Captain Noah and his Floating Zoo; I think I have probably been obsessed with rainbows since I learnt the song in about 1978, and although my father would give me a row about the theology, I simply love it (and hum it whenever I need to think about which order the colours come in). This week was a real rainbow week too, as on a rather snowy / sleety / rainy walk on Wednesday lunchtime, the sun came out and eventually - or maybe it just felt that way as I was standing in the sleet / snow / hail waiting for it - a rainbow appeared. As discussed above, I know people face plenty of barriers to walking, but I am still surprised when people admit that it's because of the weather. To that end I am gently nagging people to help me out with plotting some walks for the Go Jauntly app, so we can literally get Lanarkshire on their map. If you have a favourite walk and you'd like to help me out then check out the instructions on how to upload a walk here, or drop me an email. Even when the weather is bad, a walk doesn't have to be a rotten experience; I was out taking photos for a walk this week when due to a wonderful stroke of luck, just as a torrential downpour started, I came across some colleagues with a wee fire blazing, getting ready for a forest school session. For a few minutes as we stood chatting, I could pretend that I really was the outdoor type.
Finally this morning I had a physio appointment and while it turns out there is no nature cure for a frozen shoulder, the physio was really interested in the health benefits of nature. He said he'd been thinking recently about ways that he could incorporate the outdoors into his work through both movement and mindfulness, I really hope he's able to! I also think I may be turning into a green health bore.