reconnecting with nature…city style

How much of a part of being human, is it to want to reconnect with nature in some way?

Is that reconnection slowly being bumped off and ignored for noisier, flashier city lifestyle options?

These questions have been rolling around my head for a while now, and I don’t think they have rolled to a conclusion. More rolled on, created conversations and sat still on pondered thoughts.

It seems rather funny to be typing this post at the moment as all I can hear from outside my apartment windows, is the sound of a revved up chainsaw, slowly but surely taking down a well established tree in the back of a neighbour’s yard… Fitting.

This reconnection that I’m thinking of, could be as simple as having an indoor plant in your kitchen, while living in a 40 story city apartment building. A tiny corner of green that requires very little attention, but is there in the background in all it’s greenness.

For someone else, it could be growing your own vegetables in the back yard. Bushwalking, or swimming in the sea…

I’m still working out how exactly I fit in with this one and how I like to reconnect with nature. I know I feel better for it when I do. Calmer, more at peace, and a lot less likely for worry about the smaller things to take hold. I also know I would like to do more, and am aiming for that down the track. While I love living where I do, and think there are some truly wonderful benefits to living where I do. I also want my children to know more of the different aspects of nature there can be. To not feel totally engulfed by a consumeristic-lights flashing, plastic driven kind of lifestyle. I don’t want to feel I have a boxed in life, without any aspects of greenery around me. Those moments of reconnecting with nature make me feel more grounded.

Is that faster, fluorescent lighting lifestyle in some ways just inevitable to living in a large city?…Or does everyone in some way, still yearn for that tiny piece of nature that reconnects them? Maybe they are not even aware of it?

Sitting under a tree in the park…. cooking up freshly plucked homegrown fruit.

A trying afternoon recently, and all I wanted to do was go out to my backyard and lay on the grass looking up at the night sky. I needed to feel the earth beneath me, reconnect. Breathe in, breathe out… 5 minutes later and I could have righted myself. However I didn’t have that back yard, and I didn’t have that grass. So I sat on the kitchen floor… I invited Mr Chocolate to take a seat too. We talked, I felt a bit better, but it wasn’t a backyard with grass beneath me and I can’t help but wonder whether it would have helped a bit more if it had been.

How many people would say they have no connection with nature what so ever and have no desire to? I wonder, I really do… Is this a number that will keep on growing?

I was excited for a friend once, to find that her newly bought tiny apartment was directly opposite a community garden. She was disgusted at the thought of sticking her fingers in dirt, so no, she wouldn’t be signing up for a small patch. Instead, her down time was to spend hours upon hours window shopping in the city at any given opportunity. I would rather fork my eyeballs then spend a whole day doing that.

Restoring weekends away out of the city used to help keep the balance. These seem to be getting less and less as time goes by and various family members take on more weekly commitments. When we are out of the city though, time slows down. My breathing becomes deeper. Mind more focussed… or is that simply less distractions. Less need to multi task, and fit 100 things in to the day?

As the noisy chainsaw continues I’m musing here, and I’m curious…

If you live in the city do you feel a need to reconnect with nature in some way? Do you feel better for it?

I would think it would be slightly unlikely someone who felt no need what so ever to feel drawn to some aspects of living with nature to be reading cityhippyfarmgirl, but on the off chance there is or you know someone who is like that. I would love to know your thoughts.

If you don’t live in an urban area what are your favourite things to do? Tease me.

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56 thoughts on “reconnecting with nature…city style

  1. Brydie, I live on 40 acres, just 30 minutes from the centre of Adelaide and love it, although now our kids are older and more attracted to city life I’m not really sure how much longer will last on our hill. We’ve just been outside wandering around checking out how far the lilac is from flowering, watching the water birds in the dam, checking to see if the cattle have worked out where their new water trough is and admiring the views from our hill.
    If you are thinking about a change, I’d suggest doing it while the kids are young so that their social life is entwined with local kids. We moved here when our eldest was in her early teens and kept them all in their Adelaide school – a mistake, in retrospect.

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    • Amanda that sounds ideal. 30 minutes from Adelaide and yet you still have so much space around you. Here, I could spend 30 minutes driving just 5km on a bad day.
      I love the imagery of you wandering around checking everything…

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  2. Yep, definately NEED to connect with nature regularly. Our weekday connection with nature is pretty meagre…a walk through a park, feeding the chickens, or watering the garden. We try and escape to nearby National Parks on the weekend….but I’m finding it’s just not enough. I honestly know I’m not the real me when i’m too disconnected from nature. If we’re going to stay happy living in the city we need to get to get out more often and for longer. We have a plan….and we’ve even made an exciting purchase to help fulfil that plan…a camper van. Well, really it’s a delivery van at the moment, but it will be a camper van one day soon.

    I’m concerned by how many people are disconnected with nature. Why would they care if we lost something they don’t know?

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    • Tricia, that does sound exciting doing up a van to go travelling in. Lots of possibilities!
      I’ve just sat on your last comment for the last little while… To think there could be whole generations that have no connection what so ever and no desire to with nature is really sobering.

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  3. We live in a rented house now right on the Pacific Highway (listening to the trucks now, akin to the chainsaw) but 2 mins walk to the beach, that was my way to survive going back to renting find somewhere near the water where I can walk around the corner and put my toes in the ocean when ythe need arises,xx

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  4. Oooooooooo I adore my garden! A little patch of green, actually I’m very lucky to live in Melbourne where there is plenty of bush to be found if you want it. I love plants inside, outside and eating out of my own garden. I need to connect with nature everyday, nothing can invigorate or calm like nature can…

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  5. I’ve found this is something that has become more important to me with age. As a child, I was often outdoors playing and climbing trees and the like, but I never thought about it. As a teenager and in my early adult years, I was busy at university and I generally spent ‘off’ time indoors. These days, I love being outside. I enjoy my outdoor exercise much more than the indoor versions, I get great pleasure from my mini garden, and long walks or bike rides on the weekends give me great joy. Even getting 20 minutes out of the city can feel so different.

    I think it is a human need, and it’s one I hope our society doesn’t forget. Lovely words, and pictures, on the topic here πŸ™‚

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    • Thanks Kari. I really hope our society doesn’t forget it either. But with ongoing urban sprawl. More high density living areas clustered around cities, less and less green spaces. Peoples infatuation with having a huge house- which equals to no back yard, I’m nervous that it could be a thing of the past… I hope not.

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  6. I’ve always lived in cities, though usually in suburbs not too close to the centre. I need to have green around where I live, I feel. I need trees. I lived in Montreal for 5 months in an area with lots of buildings and not many trees at all – only one visible from anywhere in our apartment, and it was in the middle of a carpark! I missed greenery and blue skies so badly that winter.

    I now live in an inner suburb, on a main-ish road. Not as bad as Montreal, but still no backyard! I have plants on my balcony, I’m slowly developing a herb and veggie garden, I’m not much of a gardener so it’s a challenge for me. But it makes me happy. I planted lettuce and spinach seeds last week, and I was so excited the other day to notice they’d sprouted!

    I also love getting out of the city and spending time in smaller towns or in the country, but as I don’t drive I usually settle for the bigger parks and botanic gardens around here. Spending time in the park under a green tree and blue sky is magic.

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    • It is magical isn’t it. Even just a few minutes to stop, sit, smell that tree and look up at the sky. I love nothing better than laying with my kids in the park, looking up at the sky and seeing what we can see.
      Keep going with balcony plants. I’m sure there is the right plant for everyone and your environment- you just have to work out which ones they are. I’m still working that one out myself.

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  7. We live very close to the city in Brisbane but we have a very big courtyard with a few plants. I love have a bit of green around me. In Bagni di Lucca I love to walk through the huge old trees on the hill opposite. I often find myself yelling out loud “I love this place”. I’m sure anyone wandering by would think I was nuts.

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  8. Brydie – I felt for you on reading: “So I sat on the kitchen floor… I invited Mr Chocolate to take a seat too.” You’re welcome to come visit us – anytime πŸ™‚

    You are so right – there is nothing that compares with lying on your back on the lawn and looking up and the rural night sky. It is completely unbelievable the number of stars in the heavens, the sounds of the whisper of the owls (and bats) wings as they fly past on their quest for food, and the peacefulness which enters your soul as you absorb nature at it’s quietest and most basic and best.

    Looking forward to shoving your hands into the soil the next morning as you tend your salad / vegetable crops, knowing that you are providing food free of ANY additives / chemicals, and that when they arrive on the table they are there in their freshest, most nutritious state ever.

    Mr Chocolate would also enjoy foraging for his food / entertainment in a rural setting, don’t you think πŸ™‚

    There is no greater gift that you can give children than to be able to connect wholeheartedly with nature.
    Take care

    Dani

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  9. We are lucky in a way, that the city we live in is very un-city like. In fact, until I wrote that just now, I’d sort of forgotten I lived in a ‘city’!There is a lot of nature and bush everywhere, between every suburb is ‘greenery’, and there are plenty of nature reserves, parks and a botanical gardens too… of course, we are connecting with nature everyday in our own backyard!

    It’s very important, because many people have forgotten that humans are nature, we are in ‘the environment’!

    Hope you need to slump on the kitchen floor nicks off this week!

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  10. To make you feel better (or not), living in the bush, we regularly are listeners to the drone of the chainsaw. Quite disheartening at times, but necessary too..as the property owners deal with timber in all of it’s inconveniences – fire hazards, fallen limbs, dangerous branches or leaning trees (gumtrees are notorious for dropping with no notice), power lines..blah blah. But yes, living in the city I completely hear your argument.

    People who are disconnected with nature concern me. This is not how humans were designed and where would we be headed as a race if this was mainstream?

    Teasers.

    Ok, you asked for it.

    Lying on the grass next to the dam on a clear day watching the ducks and listening to the wind blow through the trees (along with the distant drone of chainsaws..)

    Wandering around pre-dinner time examining every miniscule part of the garden..crouching down and getting sidetracked watching bugs do their thing.hypnotising..

    And walks of discovery after it rains. SO much to observe after a rainshower..nature seems to come alive..more so!

    I do hope you find your little patch of nature soon. There is something so soothing about being in touch with it right on your back doorstep. xx

    (PS sorry for the teasers, but you DID ask).

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    • I really don’t know where we would be headed as a race if this was mainstream… is it just an unrealistic ideal? There must be millions of people that have no connection what so ever and are perfectly happy with that…but then maybe it’s because of this ongoing disregard and no connection with nature what so ever, that is the basis of all the worlds problems…
      Still musing….

      Keep teasing me… even the words I find soothing.

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  11. I’m a Sydney girl myself, and although I am not yet living my Tassie dream we are renting a lovely old house that feels a bit like a country home. The landlord is nice enough to turn a blind eye and so we have converted half the back yard into a kitchen garden complete with 6 chooks. When I go out with cat and dog in tow and just “be” in my backyard I feel very connected to nature. At night when we go for an evening walk I have a few fruit bats that always take off from the tree as we open then gate under it. Later I lie in bed and listen to the possums…if I can’t have open green spaces its these little things that do the trick.

    And then of course there is always the quick car trip to the sit on the beach, fingers and toes sinking into sand and watching the waves. With a coffee in hand…so maybe there will always be a bit of city too πŸ™‚

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  12. I grew up with lots of nature wandering spaces about me.
    Ten to twenty acres of uncultivated land and woods- for most of my life have afforded me lots of nature experience. My sons and I used to go for nature walks- looking for animal tracks, foraging berries and checking out the seeds, weeds and wayside herbs native to Midwestern North America.
    Now- I like to take walks around my yard daily- watch the foxes and wild turkeys, geese, woodchucks, squirrels, and birds interact in my backyard. My husband loves to watch the deer in our yard-and the rabbits- but I interrupt their frenzied feeding on my garden plants.
    I need nature- living in an apartment would be possible if there were a lot of parks nearby. But they would have to be LARGISH parks. πŸ™‚

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    • Heidi I am lucky enough to have a wonderful park nearby that IS big. We use it a lot, but sometimes that instant feeling of stepping out in to your own patch of greenery out the back door would just be lovely.
      All your wildlife at your doorstep sounds wonderful.

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  13. The idealistic me believes we all have an inner need to connect with nature – I know I do. I start pining for the wilds if I’m away from them for too long. I lived for 4 years in London and after the initial novelty had worn off (one year with trips home to Cornwall) I was desperate to get out. I managed 8 years in the midlands, but I found that difficult too – too built up, over populated and noisy. BUT, my boss at work hates anything green. She is happiest completely surrounded by concrete, with views only of buildings and not a plant to be seen – how disconnected is that?

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    • See, it’s stories like that fascinate me. I wonder how a person gets to that point, and whether there really is no aspect of her life that would be considered connecting with nature. Surrounded by concrete is so…tiring.

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  14. the issue you raise is one i struggle with a lot..when i sold the family home a few years ago i really wanted to move to a more rural area but for ‘sensible’ reasons i didn’t..as a compromise i bought a place with enough land to grow my own vegetables..and i need time out of the city regularly to stay sane..but lots of people don’t seem to need these connections..when they holiday they go on cruises or stay in resorts where the more cocooned they are from the ‘real’ world and the more luxurious it is the happier they are..is it just personal difference? i don’t know..but i wish i did because it puzzles me a lot..

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    • You’re right Jane. I had forgotten that aspect as well. Maybe… these people just really want to smell the ocean breeze and do laps in the pool and that’s their way of connecting with nature?? That’s the idealistic suggestion of mine.
      It puzzles me too.

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  15. What a great post – thanks for sharing!

    For me, food is a great way to connect with Nature in an urban setting. We’ve recently started a small urban garden on our balcony which gives us great joy. But apart from that, making sure I cook good, wholesome food with fresh produce helps a great deal with fulfilling that yearning for a more natural environment.

    Blessings,
    This Good Life

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  16. Ironically, one of my favourite things in the country are the weekends spent chainsawing wood for the fire. It sounds like the country to me and you can hear chainsaws going right through winter. We choose a spot with a view, take the whole family and some snacks and connect with the bush. Lovely.

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  17. I hear you. It is like I grew up with nature around me (in the summers at least, at my parent’s cabin at the lake) and did not think twice about it. Now I realize how so few people around me have had that opportunity, and how lucky I was. Now when I go to the lake, I just feel calm and happy. Comfortable. I can sit on the deck and watch (and hear!) the tall aspens sway and twinkle their leaves, and see the blue water of the lake beyond them. If I look closely enough at the water, I notice currents moving the water in different directions… I bring my kids out there now, and try to get them to consciously appreciate nature. We pick berries, we go on nature treasure hunts, we lay in the sand and play.

    All winter long I have almost no exposure to nature, and it really gets disturbing, I physically felt it last year. I am not sure if it is that or the lack of sunlight, or just not being outside much at all… This year I am trying to have a better attitude, and will force myself to take up some winter activities. In the snow, with trees, watching the winter birds flit about…

    I want to read the book “Last Child in the Woods”- it is about how kids these days are suffering from a disconnection with nature, and if we don’t fix it, they could be a lost generation. Not my kids, if I can help it!!

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    • Wow, I was just reading about the book. Thank you for the name. I’ll definitely see if I can get my hands on it. I didn’t even cover children not connecting with nature as that’s a whole other post!

      I love the image of you by the lake, there is something transfixing about watching water I find.

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  18. Walking down to the creek and sitting and listening to the water running over the rocks. Roaming the paddocks just on dusk to check on the animals , it is as if time has stood still. Walking on the lawn barefoot.
    These are all things I can do…but I thank you for reminding me how lucky I am to do it.
    I am always amazed how much nature you bring into your life in your apartment and I would not be surprised at all if one day you were sitting on the kitchen floor and you discovered grass growing there!!

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  19. we live in the most amazing space – a mountain one side and the sea the other, with a big garden. But, I still have a need to feel closer to nature and so have placed some stones in the corner of my shower. It sounds strange I know, but give it a go!

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  20. I grew up with the river only a couple of houses away and lots of places we could just muck about and lots of bbqs in the bush – as a kid I just couldn’t imagine growing up in a city

    we do have pots out the back, parks close by and grass at the front so I don’t feel too bad about nature but I wish I could take her into the bush where I spent much time as a kid

    On the weekend when I said we were having a picnic on the grass, she thought I meant the patch at the front of our units – made me think maybe we should have picnics there! I suspect your Monkeys also find their ways of connecting with nature even if they don’t have a backyard because they have a nature loving mum!

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    • I think that’s half the problem. What I grew up with is so different to what my kids are now growing up with. If it had been a few generations of living in apartments in the city it would seem more ‘normal’ and easier. But the memories of running through sprinklers on a hot summers day, feeling green grass squish between your toes and spitting watermelon seeds as far as you can from the back verandah is something that my boys possibly will never know…
      Still musing here… Enjoy those lovely picnics of yours Johanna.

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      • it is about what you are used to – living with a scottish partner makes me appreciate just having a backyard as he lived in apartments for years before moving to Australia – whereas I share you yearning for cool fresh grass under my feet sometimes because it was such joy as a child

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  21. different thoughts. how some try to mend this shortcoming – there’s a summer camp near my Dad’s home – kids are bussed in from St. Louis or other big cities – they get to see and touch, smell things they’ve never experienced. how I can feel close to God when alone in the woods – something never felt in a church. how tender hearted and in touch you are with your feelings/needs when so many just drone along. how those who seem to prefer the concrete – they leave more country for the rest of us. how dipping hands in bread dough is not so far from dipping in dirt. how I’m wishing for you that you soon have more dirt.

    with love from arkansas

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  22. I live in Melbourne and find it an absolute must to be near nature. Thankfully we’re close our local Botanical Gardens and pretty much everyday we find ourselves there. It’s a God send.
    The beach is close by too and I love the sense of space it provides.
    Getting out of town is a breathe of fresh air…well, literally, and my heart is always more at ease when I’m by the sea.

    We’ve started a vegie patch in out backyard and it brings us great joy to be able to dig around, water and nurture these little babies.
    ahhhh, I too dream of a country property, one day.

    Lovely post! A great reminder. Thank you.

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  23. How did I miss this post? Years ago when I was teaching we took some of our inner city kids out to the Stiperstones, Shropshire/Wales border for a week. As the coach got nearer to our destination a wave of anxiety rippled through the bus. “Miss, where are the shops?” was the key question. In fact they had the best time, canooing, rockclimbing, night walks, laying cowpat traps for each other, encounters with cows and sheep, and barely a hint of homesickness for the City.

    I live in the suburbs in a very manicured country with very little true wilderness left, maybe only the Highlands of Scotland can be called wild, but as long as the grass grows through the cracks and the big parks are there to give me green lungs and I can lie outside and look for shooting stars wrapped up in a blanket I get by. I am sure you will find a way, in fact you are already on your path to connectedness xx

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  24. Hi, just visiting from Down to Earth. It’s been raining here on the mid north coast of NSW and the bush smells wonderful. The orange trees are in full bloom and their smell is almost overpowering. Wishing I could send you a jar of bush ‘air’ to sniff when you want.
    Cheers,
    Robyn

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  25. I am loving your blog, you write just perfectly, I too would gouge my eyes out if I had to shop all day.
    However I do feel for you and your yearning for the green open spaces. I know because I used to do it to, for the last 25 years. but not any more. 8 weeks ago we moved to 2 acres in the country and it is the best thing I have ever done.
    Today I had a revelation! Today I thought that I finally feel comfortable in my skin. This is the place and I feel right. I am lucky not to have to go out to work. I work here, at the moment it is getting the place in order, the order we like and getting the veggies in and etc.
    I think some people do crave the city life and the excitement (yuk I say), good luck to em. But I have a feeling that if they knew what it was like to live in the country they may choose it, but I think they don’t know. We could keep it our secret?!
    Dayla
    http://badgerfarmwithdayla.blogspot.com/

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  26. Hi There,

    I just stumbled across your blog and your post.

    When we were growing up, my parents moved us 30mins out of town to a 100 acre property. This was when I was in Year 5 and I swore my parents did that so I had no social life as a teenager! (which was partly true my mum told me :)) So when I had the opportunity to leave home and go to uni, I did the inner city living so that I had a social life and was where all the action was. But I quickly becamed tired of this when my kids came along, and although we did have backyards, coming from 100 acres, it never did seem big enough. Now we are very fortunate to have moved out to 2 acres, surprisingly, 30 mins from the city! I was having doubts to begin with but now I don’t think that I could ever really be happy living back in a city. The best parts about living out here is that we can grow as many veggies and fruit trees as we like, and don’t have to think about space issues. I now get so excited about rain and am always eager to know how much we have. I love seeing all the new insects, birds and frogs that are coming back into our patch after we have been painstakingly replanting the treeless block. And the best bit is to sit outside on one of those intoxicatingly warm spring days where you listen to the insects and bees humming, my chooks coming up to say hello to me in their little chook language, dog sitting at my feet nudging me to scratch behind his ears and my kids running around playing whatever make believe game is in the moment. I feel so at peace at home that I hate going into ‘town’ and becoming more and more comfortable with the notion of becoming a recluse!

    Life is short…if you are thinking of getting closer to nature, just do it. You won’t regret it πŸ™‚

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