For Christmas I received a lovely book Nature Writing for Every Day of the Year, and every evening I read the day's entry, and then I also note down in a diary the three things I have noticed in nature that day. Over the last few days I've really been noticing the trees coming into leaf. My favourite three lime trees opposite my flat, finally have the faintest hint of green around the edges, and in the park when you look up, the leafy fractals are beginning to take shape so I was thrilled to read last night's entry taken from Through the Woods by H.E.Bates.
"From this angle, the wood looks not only solid, but awake. It is almost the best time to come to it; the between time, half bud, half leaf. The leaves will never show up again with the same brilliance, except in autumn."
Of course it's not just the leaves. I've been continuing to keep an eye on the blossom, although right now it's not very difficult as almost all the trees are in full bloom. Cherry Blossom Season in Japan is known as hanami, which is translated as "flower viewing" and is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers. This isn't a recent invention but an ancient tradition; it is said to have started during the Nara Period from around the year 710. Every year I mean to travel to one of the "best places in the UK to see cherry blossom" but I'm not that organised, and really it's nicer to enjoy the blossom wherever you are, whether that's a local park, a street tree or one in someone's garden.
Following on from the post I saw last week on instagram about making candied cherry blossom, this week I bring you an idea for making cherry blossom jam. Since I started following foraging accounts on social media I have been amazed at how much edible plants there are around us, even in the city, but until this year I hadn't imagined you could eat cherry blossom, I've never been brave enough to venture beyond wild garlic and brambles. If you are foraging for blossom or anything else, never take more than you need and always leave some for others - remembering that others aren't just other humans, but the birds and bees and butterflies. In her book Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer talks about how humanity's relationship with nature should be based on gratitude and reciprocity. My colleagues laugh at me because reciprocity is one of my favourite words, and I admit maybe it makes things sound more complicated than they are, but it's a key aspect of volunteering - you give your time but you also gain things - experience, skills, friends. With nature however, we are more than willing to to take, yet we often forget about the giving back part, hence, to put it simply, climate crisis.
This blog will be published on Earth Day 22nd April 2022, a global event aiming to raise awareness of climate change and to encourage us to make changes to help the planet. This year the theme is invest in our planet, working together to help solve the climate crisis. Our colleagues in North Lanarkshire ACT Now have an opportunity for people who live or work in North Lanarkshire to be trained as Community Climate Champions. You can find out more on their website. One of the fascinating things that has come out of the research about nature connection is the link between nature connection and pro-environmental behaviours. So being connected to nature is not only good for our personal well-being but for the well-being of the planet. It's important to remember that nature connection is not measured by the amount of time you spend in nature or the quality of the nature you encounter, but by the strength of your personal relationship with nature. Noticing that dandelion pushing up through the pavement is more important than bagging the next munro.
I'm sure you don't need me to make suggestions for pro-environmental behaviour, but if you do want advice or inspiration then put the Stonehouse Eco Festival in your diary and get down to St Ninian's Church on Saturday 21st May to meet a range of organisations and people who will share ideas and create a greater awareness of the threats of Climate Change impacting upon our planet and our community, and the action that we can take to help.
While we are talking about days to celebrate, tomorrow 23rd April is Blossom Watch Day as designated by the National Trust. Their website is a treasure trove of information about blossom and ways to use blossom to connect with nature. I'm particularly excited about their Blossom Activity Pack and am off to make some origami blossom. It's great to see them really taking on board the research from the University of Derby and making nature connection a key part of their work. If you've not already seen it, their booklet Nature & Me is really worth a read - whether you work in the environmental sector, as a health practitioner or just as a person who goes outside sometimes. The Lanarkshire Green Health Partnership is all about encouraging people to get outside to help improve their mental and physical health as well as supporting organisations to introduce elements of nature connection into the work they already do. Maybe you could grow some herbs and make herbal tea, bring some houseplants into the office, or even just decorate the walls with pictures of nature; instead of putting music on, why not listen to the sounds of the forest? Even indoors there are lots of things you can do to increase your nature connection, or of course you could just get outside and sit for a bit. If you want any information and advice on nature connection and opportunities to get involved across Lanarkshire then please don't hesitate to get in touch.