Better Out Than In

Rhyddian Knight, Forest Ranger at Glenan Wood, reckons there’s never been a better time to renew your commitment to spending time inside the Book of Nature.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot?

‘Feeling Lonely? Caffeine headache? Stuffy with central heating? Carpet static crawling at your feet? Too much screen time with pressures of external communications? Household members competing for attention with important but divergent needs? Sugared on shortbread? Short on time? Shorter on temper? It’s that wonderful time of the year.

Get Outside! Get Out the box! Open & Listen! Take a Break!’

Speaking for myself, it’s sometimes easy to forget to plan in time for unstructured time amidst the responsibilities and stresses in daily life. Adding our ‘C-19′ pandemic to this: the monitoring of news feeds, daily cases by ward; shielding or caring for relatives … it’s fair to say this winter has brought with it an added component to the usual cabin fever. Extrapolating from my experience along with my extended families’ and neighbours’; there is a collective form of grief that’s hard to find a time or place for. There is trauma in trying to maintain lifes chores amidst what they’re the calling ‘new-normal’ just now.

It’s not surprising, but most of us are left depleted, far removed from the other conveyors of meaning-making, our hearts and hands. We become atrophied, caricatures of ourselves, stuck operating off our heads. There’s never been a better time to renew your commitment to spending time inside the Book of Nature.

And never brought to mind?

It’s well documented that unstructured solo time in nature is not just a form of recreation, but an essential component for human development.

James Kaplan, after a nine year study of wilderness programs, conceived the idea of the ‘restorative environment’; he outlines that in unstructured, spontaneous experience in the outdoors lies the optimal way to train coordination and concentration. He went on to prove that:

“Directed attention fatigue,” (is) marked by impulsive behaviour, agitation, irritation, and inability to concentrate… If you can find an environment where attention is automatic, you allow directed attention to rest. And that means an environment that’s strong on fascination”.

In his summary of Kaplan’s research, Richard Louv goes as far as to say that:

“the fascination factor is restorative, and it helps relieve people from direction-attention fatigue.”

For those of us fortunate to employ static or mobile time outdoors as a core routine; you don’t need an expert to school you in the benefits to restoring mental health, replenishing emotional resilience and reinvigorating our animate spirits.

For auld lang syne.

For many, Glenan is a wholesome place. I recognise this as, when I’m truly on my own there, away from humans & headphones; slowly, my mental focus shifts away from media driven hubris and more to humus. In natural time, an awareness comes that I am not ‘on my own’ at all. In reality, when I come to my senses, sure enough there is life all around me… natural mysteries begging for my attention.

Give your mind a moment unplugged in the woods, & Chronos gives way to Kairos. We create a space for the magic of timeless-time to seep in; we might call it Nature’s grace, or Reality. A timeless panacea for this ridiculous so called ‘Post-Truth’ era that the news keeps barking on about.

Nature is a salve for the senses. Our sensory input is the gateway to our mental focus. Our mental focus is what creates our habits. A culture that recognises the role of our common land in changing behaviour for the better is on to a good thing. When I take an inventory of things to be grateful for the Right to Roam in a local community owned rainforest is definitely one of them.

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet.

There are two core routines I wanted to broadly outline here, there is ample space for at Glenan to accommodate them for all of us. You may have different names, but I’m going to call them by the names my mentor gave them: ‘The Sit-Spot’ & ‘Wandering’

Sit Spot- A sit spot is a special go to spot; known only to yourself; where you can slow down and pay attention. This is a place you can get to know better than anyone else. A sit spot can be visited at different times of day and weather; so I tend to have mine pretty close so I can access it.

There’s no ‘to-do’ list at a sit spot. It’s a place to slow down and observe and see who shows up. A space to tend gossamer thin threads of connection to yourself, other species; anything that captures your attention between the subsoil & the stars! Given enough attention and time, threads become thicker & thicker strings which finally become strong ropes of connection. Enough ropes to creation help keep us anchored and grounded when the going gets rough.

Wandering – A sure fire way to get out of ones head and into the body is a good wander! The main goal of wandering is to get out of your agenda driven ruts and tune into where your body wants to go in a way it wants to move. For those of us born into the star wars era, there are plenty of fun metaphors for tuning into our body’s in built radar. It sometimes needs a little practice, at least for me, but sooner or later you’ll find yourself off path and following your curiosity, your nose, your bliss; or whatever words you have for it. Finely tuned, wandering is the gateway to successful foraging/gathering and you’ll find your body has led you to whatever you’ve been looking for.

For the sake of auld lands syne.

I recognise the woods is a place for many to reinvigorate soul, and is not just a playpark or a reserve for ecological regeneration; hopefully all these needs will be reflected in the work Friends of Glenan Woods is doing on your and the parish’s behalf.

Wishing you continued renewal in these dark months, stories to bring home from the wild; & kith & kin to hear them.

Rhyddian Knight. Forest Ranger on behalf of Friends of Glenan Wood.