Reconnecting with natural places

Those who go out into nature often go out seeking a sense of wonder.

People who contemplate the beauty of nature do it in many different ways, some by exploring places that are new to them, others via the familiar rhythms of where they can go from their doorstep. Yi Fu Tuan, the author of the book Space and Place, denoted the difference in between space and place by saying, “place is security and space is freedom: we are attached to the one and are longing for the other.’’
Tuan’s research brings forward an idea that a place only comes into existence when humans give meaning to a part of an undefined space.

Natural places are nourishing in the ways they can give us both attachment and freedom. The poet Mary Oliver used to talk about the restrictiveness she felt inside buildings. She was able to find an escape in her morning walks through the forest. Her natural places were defined by their sense of quiet and routine. Oliver was not alone in showing interest and value in seeking out those places that have fewer people or less noise. An absence of artificial noise that brings inner quiet is something that many people seek out in natural places across the territory.

It’s often portrayed in popular prose or poetry what it can be like to experience natural places in these ways. People may go out seeking to transform space into place to achieve a personal sense of wonder, as well as a sense of belonging. Creating routines as part of a natural experience can access a way to understand or listen. If you haven’t thought about experiencing the natural world this way, consider this simple activity as the ground starts to thaw and we’re able to sit or stand outside for a longer amount of time.

Find a place close to home, one that you can reliably visit often. It can be good to consider somewhere that is a bit off the beaten path, a stump to sit on, a tree to lean against. Sit or stand and close your eyes. Consider taking a few deep breaths. Ask yourself, what things can you hear? What can you feel with your hands or under your feet? Concentrate on different parts of your senses. Stand or sit for at least five minutes.

Consider returning to this spot when you can. What can we know about a place through returning to it? What other ways can we notice or listen as we move into spring? What places do you already feel connected to without this act of intention?
Real listening in this way can serve as an act of presence. There are many ways to know and understand the natural world, and some of those ways have always been here. The act of transforming spaces into places, and grounding ourselves in the places that are important to us, is a way to find some certainty in moving seasons. 

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