Did Lockdown Spring Bring a Lasting Connection to Nature?

Some of this data confuses me, but the part that stands out as most important is the “noticing.”. I often refer to it as nature immersion, as opposed to nature visiting.

Finding Nature

A blog with Dr Carly Butler.

Many of us found a friend in nature during the first lockdown in Spring 2020 but new data suggests this was just a short-term relationship for some. The latest data from Natural England’s People and Nature Survey shows that levels of nature connectedness fell by 25% between April 2020 and April 2021, meaning fewer people reported feeling a part of nature.

It’s not that people have stopped visiting nature, as the proportion of people accessing green and natural spaces grew during lockdown and has stayed higher. As lockdowns eased, it’s likely that people took the opportunity to meet with others and engage in outdoor activities. But it seems that the boost to ‘noticing nature’ in the quiet times of April and May 2020 has diminished. The data shows a 13% drop in the percentage of people reporting they are taking time to notice and…

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Surprise Peace of Life in Morning Light and by Fox

I can contemplate peace endlessly and never know it as much as when it takes me by surprise.

It’s a beech tree in a wild blueberry patch at the east side of the front yard.  The tree and I have a long history, as with everything in the picture.  Everything.  Long.  Deep.  Immersive relationship history.  Yet on this mid-June morning, they all greeted me as if for the first time.  I’ll just share the new part of the history that began at that moment.

I don’t feel that there is anything especially fantastic about what I saw.  It was the peace it wrought in me, and I’ll never be able to share that except as a mention, with this souvenir of it.

It was damned silly of me to rush back into the house for the camera.  When I got back out there, the light had changed, as rising suns do, and kept changing by the second, and none of it was as beautiful as when I first saw it.

This picture can never be more than a souvenir, especially because it is not a picture of the peace that caught me by surprise when that light and its verdant subjects first poured themselves upon me, into me.

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Been Chickadeed

After the season’s last snow event in April, while pushing snow out of the path from the house to the shed, my attention was taken by several black-capped chickadees frolicking among the branches of the beech and maple trees straddling the wild blueberry patch.  My path goes through the patch, between those two trees.

black-capped chickadee e-bird site 200x150

Black-capped Chickadee, Poecile atricapillus. Click the picture for the full screen image at e-bird.org, with their report on its natural history, sounds, habits, etc.

I had been dragging my feet, frustrated with something on my mind that I can’t remember now.  Doing “snow moving meditation” (or “snow clearing yoga”) was helpful, as usual, but this time it was challenged by weariness that slowed me down and made the frustration worse.

I took a break to watch these winged, chatty attention snatchers.  I rested one arm on top of the snow shovel handle, my hand extended away from me.  One of the birds flew close by.  I waited to see if they would grace me with a closer visit, having heard they will sometimes land on a person.  It never happened to me in all the times I spent with chickadees.

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Nuala’s Painting

In my essay, Angel Wing; An Illustrated Meditation on Nature Immersion, I mentioned Morris Mountain, with a picture of part of it.

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve heard of Nuala, the non-resident Balsamean. She has been learning watercolor painting. She liked Morris Mountain enough to invest in it. Below is the photo, and her painted rendition, which is framed under glass in my bathroom with two old favorite photos. Thanks again, Nuala.

I’m glad to have another original piece in this little house.  I have a massive collection of photos of art in all media throughout the ages on my computer, but very little original art in the house.  There are a few nice prints that my parents gave me ages ago.  There are some framed photos, all mine except one forest scene from a friend.

The dominant piece is a painting by another watercolor student, Vivian Smithwick, that she framed and gave me as a gift 43 years ago in Portsmouth, Virginia.  Still in the same frame.  I doubt she’s still painting.  If she is, she would have to be well over a hundred years old.  She left me better than she found me.

Untitled Watercolor by Vivian Smithwick, 1976

Now I have a second original painting, from the early works of the only person who can ever be a non-resident Balsamean.  If she made the picture with crayons and the skill of a three year old, I’d cherish it as much or more.  (No offense to three year olds.)

You may think a bathroom is an odd home for a cherished watercolor, but think more.  It hangs in the most conspicuous place of all the walls in the house.  It is above the primary bath towel bar, across from the toilet, beside the shower.  It gets a lot of viewer “hits.”  No, bathroom moisture won’t hurt it.  It’s sealed under glass.

I’ll insert the picture below as intensive practice for learning not to care what people think of me, for Nuala’s sake:

Nuala’s picture is the one on the left. I’m patting myself on the back for getting a shot in such a small room that includes everything I included in my description of the picture’s location.

I am not jaded by all the years of looking at these two other pictures, old photos.  They are more than pictures.  They are moments, situations, experiences, people.

The new painting is all of that plus relationships with nature and with a person, the longest sustained, continually positive and productive human relationship of any kind I’ve had in my adult life.

Marvel of Modern Science

TIME OUT FROM COVID FOR CLASSICS

I don’t know why I can’t watch this without laughing, my also being a marvel of modern science.  This is a 20-second clip from a five-minute video:

Link to the video: https://youtu.be/3nE4WngsOrs

Doctor:  Do you think there’s anything wrong with your mind really?
Randall: Not a thing, Doc.  I’m a goddam marvel of modern science.

From One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) for which Louise Fletcher (Nurse Ratched) & Jack Nicholson (R.P. McMurphy) won Oscars.  You knew she had ratcheted up the Academy’s attention by ten clicks with her strangulation face …

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Halloween Wind Storm

It scattered seventy trees across or into Balsamea’s 2.5 miles of trails.   It’s seventy-give-or-take; I lost count a couple of times while stopping to think about how to deal with some of the fallen trees.  Thinking never has been a reliably good idea.  It often interferes with nobler processes, even vital ones.

The big winds came on Thursday and Friday, October 31 & November 1, 2019.  It is the biggest such storm tree impact in Balsamea’s 14.5-year history.  Before now, the biggest one was the “717 Storm” of July 17, 2012.

I’ll never forget the way my heart sank into my stomach when I found 33 trees on the trails on July 18, 2012.  Working on clearing them and rerouting paths around some of them — never with a chainsaw, which violates Balsamea law — I learned that it was good for me and good for the trails.  Often when I addressed a change that Nature threw onto a trail, the result was a better trail or connection to another trail.  I’m sure I don’t have to explain why it’s good for me to go work in the woods, for mind and body and whatever else I may be.

My little Cadivus story of September 7, 2018 explains the immersive experience of co-creating trails with Nature.  Handy excerpts if you don’t want to read the Cadivus post (I don’t blame you):

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Concordia’s Arbor Lane

Arbor Lane is the west boundary of Concordia.  This is the approach to the Y, where Balsamea Way goes right and Arbor Lane goes left:

June 10, 2009. Meet Foley, young beech in center.

Notice the little beech tree near bottom right center.  In June 2009 the trunk was about the size of a broom handle.  It is at the south entrance to Arbor Lane.  For easy reference, I’ve just now (really, right now!) named this tree Foley (from Fagus grandifolia, American beech).

June 10, 2009. Foley with Grandmother Pometa standing over Arbor Lane.

Another view, looking north into Arbor Lane.  The big beech at center is hereby now named Pometa, the Slovenian word for sweep or sweeping (tapping a bit of my maternal heritage).

I’ve never been big on naming individual trees because there are so many I’d like to name.  So I generalize.  I look up at any spruce and say, “Hey there, Cousin Sprucie.  How are ya?”  Playing on Bruce “Cousin Brucie” Morrow.  He’s done lots of things, but I remember him as the legendary radio disk jockey on WABC (AM 770) competing with “Murray the K” on WINS (AM 1010) in NY City during one of my former lifetimes.

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Starring Nuala’s Maple Tree

(continued from Nuala’s Tree and Concordia post)

Nuala’s Tree is a red maple (Acer rubrum) with four partly intertwining trunks rooted at the edge of a big old pine stump.  I dedicated the tree to Nuala in 2009 or earlier.  The oldest picture I have is from 2009, below.

June 6, 2009. Viewed from south.

September 13, 2019

The brighter background is because of the logging next door. It changes the habitat of Balsamea forever in several ways.  I try not to think about it anymore.

Concordia is a park-like area of about 0.3 acre surrounding Nuala’s Tree.  Almost all of the development of Concordia occurred in August-September 2019.  Before that, there was just some minor maintenance to keep the tree from being overgrown by pines and balsam firs.

I don’t need to give special attention to a tree for it to have personal meaning, nor need I seek personal meaning in a tree.  However, sometimes a tree seeks it in me, like a contemplative interaction probing the soul.  That’s Nuala’s Tree.
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Nuala’s Tree and Concordia

There are about 45 pictures on this page, including a few maps.  It may load slowly.  You can optionally open/download a PDF copy (6.24Mb) to read offline.

This is the only long post in this series on Concordia.  The rest have narrower topics and are mostly pictures and links.

Dear Nuala (NOO-lah),

I have less than two weeks before your visit, and too many other things to do, including figuring out how to fix the refrigerator that turned itself into a freezer today (M-m-m, frozen pickles), but I want to document something going on in the Balsamea woods that is about you, or because of you.  I want it to be on record, forever.  I also want to make sure you know about it, just in case your tour here doesn’t do this topic justice.

I’ve given you the pseudonym Nuala to protect you from the stigma of  associating with me, and to protect your privacy.  Even though only three or four other people will read this, if anybody, everybody on the Internet is a close neighbor with a fence to gossip over.

It’s a nice Irish name.  It came from Fionnuala (or Finnguala), notable in the popular Irish myth, The Children of Lir (PDF).  This presentation of the myth, with the art I added to it, a Thomas Moore poem, and extensive end-notes, may be the best treatment of the topic you’ll find.  Especially since you’re probably not looking anyway.  But seriously, it was a pile of work putting it together, and worth it.  It’s probably the best part of this post.  (It even has a naked picture of Nuala.)


Nuala (/ˈnuːlə/; Irish: [ˈn̪ˠuəl̪ˠə]) is an Irish female given name, derived from Irish mythology – being either a diminutive form of Fionnuala [or Fionnghuala] (“fair shoulder”), the daughter of Lir, or an alternate name for Úna (perhaps meaning “lamb”), wife of Finvarra, king of the fairies.  — from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuala


Fionnuala – In Irish mythology, Finnguala (modern spellings: Fionnghuala or Fionnuala; literally fionn-ghuala meaning “fair shoulder”) was the daughter of Lir of the Tuatha Dé Danann. In the legend of the Children of Lir, she was changed into a swan and cursed by her stepmother, Aoife, to wander the lakes and rivers of Ireland, with her brothers Fiachra, Conn and Aodh, for 900 years until saved by the marriage of Lairgren, son of Colman, son of Cobthach, and Deoch, daughter of Finghin, whose union broke the curse.[1] ‘The Song of Albion’, with lyrics by Thomas Moore[2] speaks of her wanderings.

The name is anglicized as Fenella. The shortened version Nuala is commonly used as a first name in contemporary Ireland.  — from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fionnuala


 

As you know, about ten years ago (maybe more, I’m not sure … the earliest photo I have is 2009), I dedicated a special maple tree to you, with your name.  Nuala’s tree (or just “Nuala Tree”) is now the centerpiece of a forest retreat with unique natural features and special relationships with many components of Balsamea’s trail network.

The place is called Concordia Park, or, as I’ll normally put it, just Concordia.

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Nature Writers I Follow #4: Mary Holland of Vermont

Books by Mary Holland:

I marvel at how little I accomplish in my life, relative to the amazing output of others. Nature writer Mary Holland seems to be a whole team of creative and scientific experts, not just one person. Her website, books, articles and professional photographs encompass a seemingly limitless encyclopedic exploration of nature, presented in short, easy-reading, wonderfully illustrated pieces. She creates educational tools for all ages, especially children.  When she’s not doing any of that, she’s spreading knowledge and wisdom in speaking engagements. You can feel her passion for natural history in her work.

(Better disclosure: I benefit nothing but pleasure by promoting the nature writers I follow. I have no investment or business interest except as their customer, I get no freebies or incentives, and I have no family connection with them — that I know of!)

Mary Holland’s qualifications root her as a naturalist with specialization in education, plus leadership in environmental and natural sciences in public and private sector organizations. Did I mention she’s a skilled, accomplished writer and photographer? ==> Please continue reading ==>