It is not uncommon to return home from a walk with my children with my purse or pockets full of interesting specimens we’ve collected. Bark, seedpods, and glittery rocks abound, as well as pictures on my phone of the living things we want to name but can’t (and won’t try to) carry home with us.
Why do I thrill at learning that the little brown and yellow tufted bird I spotted by the pond is known as a great crested fly-catcher, or marvel all the more at the ink-blot leaves of the bloodroot once I can identify them by name? It’s all about making connections with the world and others.
The Importance of Making Connections
Appreciating The World
I wonder, sometimes, if I am too focused on what they are, if I should just appreciate the world around me without having to classify or categorize it. But truly, learning about the things around me helps me to appreciate them even more. I feel more connected to them, the way you do when you finally learn that neighbor’s name you’ve been waving to for months, or when you strike up an earnest conversation with your corner-store cashier.
It’s a familiarity with the world around me, a world that I am connected to in a myriad of ways, from the spring ephemerals to the migrating birds to the folks whose lives intersect, in the largest and smallest instances, with mine. In a world where we can chat with someone three thousand miles away at the push of a button, or locate a long-lost friend in an hour, we can be strangely disconnected. Discovering more about my surroundings is a way for me to understand where I am, so I can understand more my own place in it.
Enjoying The Outdoors
One way I choose to make connections is by getting outdoors. Spending time in nature has proven benefits, and lots of them, from lowering stress levels (and raising Vitamin D levels) to enhancing social relationships. Maybe you are not an amateur biologist (or botanist, or geologist…) and you have no interest in learning the family, genus and species of that vivid little beetle that just crossed your path.
Take a walk at your local park and learn its paths by heart instead. Feel the change of the seasons coming by the minute changes you notice in a familiar place. Learn the rhythm of your feet and your heartbeat as you walk its curves. Or perhaps it’s your neighbors you’d like to know better? Strike up a conversation, offer to lend a hand, take a walk around the block and wave to those you see. Let your neighbors get to know you too and start making connections.
We are all individuals, a fact that makes the world a stunningly diverse and ceaselessly interesting place. We all too, though, have our place in the web of the world, each an integral part of its workings. To learn the place around us, to choose to know it intimately, offers us greater connection to this world, strengthening our bonds to it while also reinforcing who we are as our own unique selves.[Photo Credit: Marvin Kuo]