Have you ever wondered how to better connect to individuals with special conditions or disabilities? These situations can often gift us with the opportunity to reach outside of our own "boxes" and make creative efforts to build a foundation for friendship or care giving. Sometimes creating meaningful connections with others can require us to be flexible in our own perceptions of communication. Certified Forest Therapy Guide Brenda Spitzer has come to understand this in her work with the special population group she guides and shares with us her experiences of joy and learning from one another.
When going out into the woods or in the wild, we are undoubtedly likely to encounter other wildlife whose lands we are entering into. These creatures large and small surround us while we take solace in their peaceful homeland. For centuries indigenous cultures have appreciated and valued the wisdom and insight of these non-human animals, and have listened to their communications. Yet, in our hustle and bustle world, we have lost sight of the possibility of communication between species, and now see animals as ignorant, non-emotional creatures who have nothing to offer us in the way of wisdom or intelligence. This story shared by ANFT Founder and Director Amos Clifford is a beautiful tale of how through non-verbal communication and an intelligence beyond his own capacity, Coyote saved Amos from potential death. This story offers us insight into the depth of compassion and perception of the more-than-human world, and invites us to open ourselves up to the communications these creatures have for us.
It's common to hear people of older generations comment on how different their childhood was compared to the lives of children now. There was less media, less generalized fear, and more time spent outdoors. We often hear stories of how our parents or grandparents spent hours alone or with their friends wandering through the landscape, with little to no supervision. Fast forward to today's world and parents are taught live in fear of the world for their children. As consequence, children are spending less time outdoors than ever before, with the television-babysitter becoming a common practice. While this is a trend being commented on by people such as Richard Louv and organizations like the Children and Nature Network, there are those who are intentionally finding ways to immerse their children in the great outdoors- even when their culture does not support it. Katriina Kilpi, a Finnish expat living in Belgium, describes her experience of being an outdoorsy Mother living in a non-outdoorsy environment, all the while doing the best she can to instill the value of nature in her children. This is a beautiful piece about remembering a carefree, nature-full childhood, and the struggles of living in a location where a nature-based lifestyle is not the norm.
December is always a busy month, with the holidays spurring festive gatherings and celebrations. With all this social activity, sometimes it is easy to forget that this season also holds the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. Increasingly less sunlight and the external landscape of bare trees, migrating birds, and chilly weather offers a mirror and an invitation to allow ourselves to go inward and slow down. In this week's blog, Andrea Fereshteh shares with us an invitation to slow down and allow the stillness of the winter forest to inspire us into a dreamlike state for deep reflection and internal exploration.
We tend to look at nature as a collection of things: plants and trees and fungi appear as objects that can only be acted upon, rather than engaged with. But what happens when we look at them as living beings with teachings to impart to us? In this week's article, Tam Willey explains how opening one's self to a reciprocal relationship with nature can help us grow - and heal.