I am a ‘do-er’. I like to get out into nature and ‘do’ something. I always have my camera slung over my shoulder, plus a notepad and pen, and often even a watercolour pad and some paints. I can happily spend hours on end out in our local green spaces doing whichever thing most appeals to me. I always feel very connected to nature.
Recently someone expressed the view that the only way in which to truly connect with nature is to simply ‘be’ out in nature, doing nothing, simply existing. The argument was that people who experience nature through a lens, or who spend their time painting it, or composing a poem about it, are not truly connecting – as if the very process of ‘doing’ somehow negated your connection.
I couldn’t disagree with this more.
So, what do I think?
I think that each of us will achieve our own connection to nature in our own way. There is no right, or wrong, or better way of doing it. For some people, taking a walk through a woodland, listening to the songs of the birds and appreciating the play of light through the branches, will be enough. Another person might need to stop for a time, to fully immerse themselves in the moment. The next might choose to capture the moment through some form of creative expression – through art work, photography, or poetry.
A haiku, for example, is a particularly popular form of poetry whose three lines are intended to encapsulate a moment. These are often linked with the eastern tradition of mindfulness, a method of meditation centered around paying complete attention to your current moment.
Some people might need a guide in order to feel fully connected with nature, someone to point out what is happening where, to show them how to slow down and exist at nature’s pace. Some people might need to take part in an activity in which they’re getting their hands dirty, such as gardening, habitat management, or tree planting. Another person might just prefer to sit beside a river, with a fishing rod at their side.
Now, there is one element to the ‘being’ argument that I do agree with. I believe that a connection with nature is achieved through ‘being’ in nature. However, I also believe that this ‘being’ can achieved through the process of ‘doing’. When you watch a bee flit from flower to flower, waiting for it to move into your camera shot, when you look up in the moment before you touch paintbrush to pad, awestruck by the play of light on water before you, when you tamp down the soil around a newly planted tree, these are all moments of ‘being’ amongst the ‘doing’, even if you don’t recognise them as such.
So if you’re a ‘do-er’ and someone tries to tell you that you’re not actually connecting with nature, please ignore them. They cannot know the depth and truth of whatever connection you feel, any more than you can know the depth and truth of theirs.
Are you a ‘be-er’ or a ‘do-er’? What’s your favourite way in which to connect with nature. Leave a comment – I’d love to know.