As nature falls dormant once again, its power to boost wellbeing might seem less obvious.
Weather can have a strong impact on mood. At this time of year in particular, nature itself can fuel depression, as nights draw in and growth slows or halts. And maybe never more so than this year, when autumn and lockdown have struck at once.
While many people feel they have reconnected with nature this year, others have lost the feww opportunities they have to spend time planting or growing in particular. Many community and therapeutic gardens have not opened for months, particularly in areas of the country which have faced long periods of tighter restrictions. For some sites, it is too difficult to ensure distancing, or most of the people who usually attend have needed to shield.Other therapeutic and community gardening initiatives have met when and where possible. Now winter looms, and gardens’ productivity (so important an element in their impact on wellbeing) has slowed. While this is a familiar, annual lament for all who depend on time spent growing outdoors, this year lockdown and likely continuing restrictions further reduce the possibility of meeting to clean and repair tools, to harvest winter vegetables, to plant late bulbs or to plan next spring’s planting.
Coronavirus has thrown us all back on our own resources by limiting opportunities to draw on community life. Some of us still have the freedom to connect with nature on our own, even though the ways we do that have to adjust for winter. You have to consciously look for new sights at this time of year – maybe for tree silhouettes, now that trees’ different shapes become far more obvious bare of leaves, or for colourful dogwood stems, or for a striking sunset on even the most overcast day.
But for some people, it is only through community or therapeutic gardening that they ever spend time in nature, so that new ways will be needed to connect with nature in different circumstances. That’s why Medley’s Creative Ideas, as one example, try to feature a range of ways to engage with nature, so that people might find one idea they could use even if they are unable to get outside, unable to garden or live in a very urban area. If getting out amidst nature is impossible, then even one of the songs or art & craft ideas might conjure thoughts and memories of the outdoors. Https://medley.live/creative-ideas/
So many people have thought up imaginative ways to go on connecting with nature throughout months of pandemic. These have involved growing and wildlife-watching, but also music, art, movement and dance. Someone on Medley’s new Facebook group recently shared a link to a feature about outdoor sketching sessions in Epping Forest, run by Boggy Doodles. Held earlier in the autumn (before the second lockdown began in England), the sessions looked like a great way to spend time creatively in nature, drawing autumn leaves and trees in charcoal or watercolour pencils. Hopefully others will be held once lockdown is eased.
Nature might seem to be sinking into hibernation, but by drawing or painting (alone or with others), by digging and preparing soil, by simply looking at winter seedheads or a houseplant, or watching a bare tree, it is still possible to feel part of nature’s endless cycle of life in some way.
Do you have responses or thoughts you could share with others? Are you involved with a community or therapeutic garden or other nature group which is unable to meet? Have you found new ways to connect with the natural world? It would be great if you could contribute to Medley’s new Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002