Want to know the best way to feel better, instantly?
Have you gone for a walk in the forest recently?
Do you want to connect with something that will bring you balance and peace?
No matter how stressed you may feel, getting out in nature will help you to feel better.
One of the most memorable careers I have ever had was working in the wilderness as a junior geologist.
The best part of this work was walking through nature and seeing all the animals that live there.
This blog is about that experience and why it is so important to connect with nature.
A Vocation in Nature?
My original goal when I finished university was to never leave Canada and find a teaching job somewhere close to nature. Throughout my undergraduate degree, I spent several summers up north around the Thunder Bay and Sudbury area of northern Ontario, Canada, working for the Geological Society of Ontario mapping Precambrian outcrops (mapping rocks) and navigating through some of the most beautiful forests in northern Ontario.
I mentioned this experience in my last blog, ‘Reconnecting with a Life Dream, a very personal recount’.
During those mapping exercises, I remember walking through a beautiful yet sometimes dangerous terrain. I was experiencing what Gandalf must have felt, when he rode through the old magical forests from the Lord of the Rings.
Those summers were an incredible experience for a budding geologist or environmental scientist. I was, however, in it for the connection to nature. Being able to work in some of the most beautiful forests in Canada is an experience I will never forget and will always cherish.
Working as a Junior Geologist
The living accommodations varied based on the project. One summer I was living in a motel room – you know those one-story gems on the side of the highway that is often viewed as ‘seedy’. I lived there for two months with another female geologist in training. During another summer I was living in a tent outside a ski resort in the Thunder Bay area. I slept under the stars hearing wild wolves (maybe they were dogs?) howling in the night and owls (or maybe they were bats?) hunting outside the vast forest area around my tiny tent.
Another project took me to a wooden cabin in the woods with a small mapping team and another to Sudbury working in the office at the Geological Society of Ontario. The job was a dream come true for a budding geologist. But what I loved most were those walks through the beautiful forest.
The Majestic Moose
One time, I stumbled out of some very thick bush and came almost face to face with a female moose with her young calf. This majestic animal ran sideways towards me to protect her calf. She was so close I could see her wide eyes glazing with fear, full of alarm and urgency. I was that close! I was too awed to be scared and quickly retreated so she would calm down and see that I was not a threat.
I had several moose encounters which spurred a love and obsession for this solitary animal. The males were the most impressive for their size and rack, but there was nothing quite like seeing a female moose with her young calves. Considered one of the least social mammals in the world, their presence and grace are impressive, to say the least. I had often ‘heard’ a moose in the bush, thrashing about like a walking hurricane breaking branches and tumbling down small trees as it moved effortlessly through the bush.
One time I was hammering away at an outcrop to get a rock sample when a very large bull pocked his head out from the bush that was just in front of me. He was a young male, who was actually more curious about who I was! His rack was huge and it had vines and branches hanging from it. The scene was almost comical, yet I was terrified, and ran towards the work truck, while he simply watched me calmly, before getting bored and retreating back into the bush.
Among the junior geologists, we had a bit of a competition going on during the summer. We competed to see who could stay on their compass mark and find a rock outcrop the fastest, based on an aerial photography. I often won! I was fast and always hit the mark. That skill hasn’t always transferred over to help me find my way through foreign cities though. None-the-less if you can find north the rest pretty much falls into place as long as you can see the sky or some other noticeable landmark.
Meeting Nature Head On
During my last year studying geology, I was navigating a particularly dense young growth forest when a branch from a tree pocked me in the ear and blew out my eardrum. Ouch!
I couldn’t swim or get water in that ear for the rest of the summer. Can you imagine how thick that bush must have been for a small branch to twist around and get into my ear? Some days were like that, navigating bush so thick, it scraped your shins, tore your clothes and scratched your skin from face to arms to shins as you fought your way through it.
The greatest fear was running into a bear, because -often- there was no way to see it before you encountered it. To prevent this we always navigated the bush in pairs and carried cowbells on our backpacks and deliberately made lots of noise to warn any wild animals that we were there. A surprised bear is never a happy bear! The hope was that they would simply move away when they heard us coming, and I’m sure they often did, based on the fact that I survived those summers.
Many times my co-worker and I saw evidence of black bears in the area we were mapping, through paw prints, fresh scratch marks on trees or fresh dung the colour of purple during blueberry season. This one time I saw a black bear with her two cubs. Thankfully they embarked on a clear-cut area under the hydro wires in front of me at a safe distance away. I stopped, as she reared up on her hind legs sniffing the air intently, in our direction. Luckily we were not too close, so she felt safe enough to simply move along, back into the safety of the forest with her young waddling cubs closely behind her.
Blown Out Forest
Perhaps the worse and most dangerous type of terrain to navigate was a blown down area of fallen trees that had been burnt from a forest fire several years ago. The fire leaves charred tree trunks and branches laying around everywhere. Sharp branches like knives lay sticking up from the trunks pointing towards the sky for as far as the eye could see.
You would have to walk along the fallen tree trunks because the ground was full of fallen trees and so you’d be walking a meter or two above the ground. If you fell, you could easily impel yourself on a charred branch and kill yourself. Nerves of steel and a sure footing were critical!
In those days the muscles on my legs were as hard as nails and I walked on average 13-15 km a day, through varying degrees of dense live and/or dead bush.
Beaver Dams and Leeches
Several times we encountered the busy beaver, building dams as they love to do, so that a flowing stream would back up and give them a nice swimming hole. This way they can build their floating house of branches and mud and have a safe area to live. Many times we would come across a huge pond that we had to get across. The only way to get to the other side was to either swim in the leech-infested water or find the beaver dam and walk across.
I’ll tell you, we looked for the beaver dam every time! The beavers dams would be thin and sloppy but it sure beat swimming in gross muddy water. The Beavers were never too happy with us traipsing across their dams and I’d always salute them as they stayed safely away from us, yet chattering loudly -annoyed- that we were disturbing their peace.
The best part of those summer work projects was walking through a mature forest where the undergrowth was minimal and the trees mature, towering up like tall handsome Gods proudly swaying over your head, as their tops kissed the sky. Walking through these majestic trees was like walking through a fairyland with sunlight trickling down and lighting the forest floor below and where dots of sprinkling light painted the floor full of lush ferns. It was truly heaven on earth.
The cutest and cheekiest creature of all was the chipmunk. They would come out when we sat down to eat out lunch on a sunny outcrop. They were so wild, they were tame. If you left your lunch open beside you, for sure they would come and try and steal some -or even – all of it. They would even eat out of your hand, stuffing their little faces full of food until they expanded four times their original size. Gosh, they were cute!
Why Does Nature Feel so Good?
What great memories!
I’m certainly not fit enough now to do that kind of work today, but I do dream of one day living in the forest where I can connect with nature and live a life of heaven on earth!
So why does nature make us feel so good? I’ve given this much thought and have come up with the following;
- Nature is in our DNA. We come from nature, we evolved from it, it is as much in us as it is us.
- It doesn’t judge us, there are no mirrors, no reminders of any lack we may think we have. It just is what it is, with no judgments
- You live in the moment because time slows down. Everything in the forest operates at a much slower pace than we are used to living in the city. When time slows down, you start to notice all the little things in life that mean so much more than on a deeper more meaningful level.
- You can’t help but notice that everything is harmonious and comes into balance in nature. Animals only eat as much as they need. Creatures store food according to their needs; no more or less. There is a supreme fairness in nature that can’t be questioned and can’t be changed by us.
- Nature can’t be controlled, so it teaches us to accept things for the way they are.
- Nature is quiet and calm. Sit in the forest and listen to its sounds and murmurings. Absolutely beautiful!
- You remember who you truly are when you connect with nature.
- You are reminded that you are connected to all living things, you are not a separate entity operating alone in this world. Nature reminds us that everything in this world is connected.
- You bear witness to life and death, everywhere in nature. Coming to terms with our own death makes us happier and more accepting individuals.
- Whether you call it God, Earth Mother, the Great Mystery or by another name, nature helps you to connect with this powerful, loving presence. Nature brings us closer to our own spirit.
Please share any experiences you have had in nature. Do you agree that nature brings us closer to who we really are? I’d love to hear what you think.
If this blog resonates with you please share it with your friends or with someone who needs to hear this message. As always thank you for visiting and sharing the good vibes worldwide!