I’ve been feeling conflicted. Life is throwing me curveballs left and right, and it isn’t easy to let go of the ever-running machine called the brain. This is especially hard at home where my calendar sits next to me and several post-it notes as well as my laptop remind me of things I should organise, manage or solve in one way or another. What I need in those moments when life is falling apart, is to go out in the nature. To breath fresh air into my lungs. To give my head a temporary respite from thinking too hard. To ground and to connect.
Ever since I was a child I found being in nature soothing and uplifting. Some studies even show that spending time in nature improves your mood immediately. It is a sustainable and an incredibly easy way to feel better. I am a person who loves the forest and the sea. Luckily, I live in a city by the sea which means that I have the coastal islands and their forestlike landscapes to explore. One Sunday last autumn when I felt terribly out of sorts, I went to Seurasaari Island to walk among the trees, to stare at the water and to clear my head.
Every season has its own charm and power to make you feel better. Autumn is my favourite since autumn nature is such a treat for both body and spirit. Strolling in the midst of yellows, reds and burnt oranges, deep greens and browns comfort me. Some of autumn’s charm comes from it being a hello and a goodbye rolled into one. The rollercoaster of colours goes up and down. When the birth is over, the decay starts: leaves are ripped from the trees and winds and rain pelt the earth. It’s cold and dreary which should make you feel melancholic. But it doesn’t. Instead, seeing the ups and downs of nature reminds you that life will not stay the same. Nature moves in circles and spirals just like life. The good times are followed by the bad times and the bad times are followed by the good times. And so forth. That knowledge is empowering when you’re in the middle of your own storms.
After autumn, I roll easily into winter. For me, the first snowfall is the welcoming bells for a new year whether it is November or January. Winter nature is full of bright sunny days, snow covered seabeds, twigs and grass peeking from the snow. My childhood’s winters with lots and lots of snow and very low temperatures are hard to find these days, thanks to climate change, but there are times and places that still have that certain winter spirit. Being in the winter weather reminds me that you can be resilient in the face of hardships. Like the heather in the winter, you survive. You feel sparkly and warm, happy when cold nips at your cheeks as you are bundled up in woolly scarves and hats and mittens. You persevere despite the cold.
Spring is the time of the ever warmer sun, spring buds and expectations for the coming summer. It is the time to make plans for the summer, to push your expectations towards making them come true. Nature in the spring is mysterious: you know what is coming but you don’t know when. For me, life often feels like that. The spring weather has the feel of winter’s cold winds but you know the cold will pass. So you are patient. You feel invigorated and ready to embark on new and exciting journeys.
Summer is soft and mellow, and so green that it hurts your eyes. For me, summer is lazy days in nature, watching the bloom of flowers and trees, the midnight sun and the neverending days of light. Summer is the sun that caresses your skin and makes you feel languid and calm. It is warm rain that washes away your troubles. It is laying on smooth rocks and watching the waves crash on the shore. It is diving deep into the sea from the ladders that have been set on the side of those smooth rocks. Troubles feel less troublesome when you let summer nature in. You feel warm and soft, pliant and complete.
As I spend time in nature every season, I see the change in climate every year. The winters are warmer and the spring comes earlier. The Earth is unwavering but also delicate. I often feel that I should be more in the giving end when it comes to nature and the ecosystem. Nature enhances my balance and in turn I try to do my best to support sustainability of the Earth’s natural resources.
Nature feeds your senses. When I am in nature, I see the clouds change shape and the grass move. I hear the splashing of waves, the crunching of sand under my feet, and the noises animals make. I smell the junipers and flowers that remind me of childhood when I ran free in the fields, climbed trees and made flower garlands with no worry for tomorrow. I feel the textures of tree trunks when I embrace them. They are old and solid, unwavering under the elements. I feel the hardness of stones and rocks as I walk on them. They give me solid ground that helps me gather my thoughts in turbulent times. They bring me back to myself and when I return home, my thoughts are clear and I can see a path through my troubles.
Nature is balance, perseverance, patience and beauty. Studies show that being in nature reduces stress, helps us cope with pain, increases our ability to focus and creates feelings of empathy and connectedness. All the more reasons to safeguard nature. Standing on the sleek rocks of Seurasaari Island and watching the waves embrace the shoreline made me feel grounded but lighter at the same time. I felt that my focus, that had been disintegrated due to the many things that demanded my attention at home, was restored. Again, nature succeeded in putting my pieces back together and sending me home with a renewed sense of connection and equilibrium.
Text by Tiina Junno
Sources: The New York Times, University of Minnesota