How to Find Joy in New Skills & Reconnect with Nature
There are so many ways that we can rekindle our joy with nature, here are a few.
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Reader, today I’m here to remind you of something.
You can pick up new skills and chase the joy of reconnecting with nature at almost any time in your life.
I grew up on a council estate, but we did have some nature around us. We had a few fields that were pretty bare and seemed barren, but there was also a brook and a river. From a young age I could identify nettles (who can’t after being stung a few times!?), dock leaves, sticklebacks and rats (a walk near the brook always came with a sighting) — but that was about it.
I didn’t know we could eat some of the things growing around us!
The first time I learnt you could eat wild plants I was about 16. Some people were picking blackberries by my house. I thought they were weird. I was so starved of connection with nature I didn’t even think to pick one and eat it for myself, despite seeing people take part in this late summer activity for over 4 years.
Fast forward another 4 years and I’m living in London. I visit a friend and we spend the afternoon picking blackberries beneath the last throes of summer warmth, just outside of Wimbledon. I travelled home on the tube with an old Roses tin packed to the brim, lid squashed down and juice oozing out the crevices — those things aren’t watertight… My fingers were covered in sweet sticky purple juice that gathered more than a few odd looks from fellow tubers, but I didn’t care. That afternoon was bliss and I was full of joy.
Jump to today, I’ve been living in Sheffield just over a year. Foraging feels like it’s becoming a welcome seasonal ritual. Every time I pick and eat something, I feel a warm fuzzy feeling like I’ve just been given a hug by nature.
This spring, I picked wild garlic for the first time, for the second year in a row I’ve gathered as many blackberries as I can find — they’re quickly taking up freezer space — and, just a few weeks ago, I found a chicken of the woods mushroom that my partner harvested.
I want you to know, my foraging is tame. There are a handful of foods I will collect and eat. I’m an anxious eater, so I stick to things that feel familiar and safe. I don’t feel the need or pressure to expand past the few things I currently forage. I am content in the joy of the few things I enjoy eating and they are welcome seasonal treats that make me grateful for cool spring air or sweat-inducing heat.
Reconnecting with nature doesn’t need to start and end with foraging.
I am growing my knowledge, building my skill of identifying… Both things that can and can’t be eaten. I can identify more than what I forage and there’s a deep ancient joy found in the reconnection of identification. The small act of naming a plant, animal, or insect has a big impact on our knowledge of the land we live on and how we relate to it. It feels like an acknowledgement of living things, to be able to name them and recognise their traits.
Have you ever tried to identify birds, butterflies and moths? Now I’ve started it, every time I see something flitter by I can’t help wanting to know.. who are you? What do we call you? How do you help balance our eco-system? What can I do in my garden and community to help sustain you?
A peacock butterfly, photographed in my garden
We can also go beyond the breathing to the inanimate that lives around us. I’ve spent August looking up at the night sky far more frequently than I have at any other time during the year, trying to name stars and constellations, ever so slowly building up a map of the sky.
There are so many ways that we can rekindle our joy with nature.
Take this as your sign to go and find them.