Once upon a time I had a life that I don’t even recognize anymore. I made a lot of money, but was "chained" to a desk, in front of a computer screen, under fluorescent lights and…completely miserable. At some point I realized that I wasn’t living a life; I was merely existing, and it was making me sick-in body and soul. So, I burned it all down, and started over. Much like the phoenix rising from the ashes, I made something entirely new as I emerged from the rubble of that old life. I went back to school and became a horticulturalist, permaculture designer and my own boss; I now spend the majority of my time outdoors, "in nature".
My nature story is one of rebirth. My last name (and business name) literally means “rebirth” and is the Egyptian equivalent of a phoenix rising from the ashes. I spend more time outdoors than I do inside, and I’m a happier person because of it. I moved to New Mexico from the Midwest—the land of trees and large bodies of water—so when I came to Albuquerque, there were some adjustments to make. But how I love it here! The long, cold, gray winters of the Midwest were not for me; Albuquerque suits me so much better. I wrote the following this morning, and thought it was appropriate to share here:
>>I have dozens of things that must get done today; I have deadlines to meet.
Yet, here I sit in the garden.
This garden that was once a barren, dusty, dead space now teems with life. It has so many lessons to teach me about ecosystems, healing the land, interdependence, my own once-barren life…and love.
I see (and hear) birds, a dozen variety of bees, a butterfly or two, a plethora of spiders and insects and lots of skittering reptiles where there was once nothing but dust, goat heads and nightshades. They choose to live here now-in harmony with one another-part of the interdependent web of life.
I have dozens of things I must get done today; I have deadlines to meet.
Yet, here I sit in the garden.<<
It is significant that I type these words from my garden. I’m one of those people that was born to be outside under the sky, not cooped up inside of some manmade box of wood, brick, metal or adobe. What we sometimes forget about nature is that we are a part of it. When people talk about “getting back to nature”, I smile. I remind people, as the opportunity presents itself, that WE ARE NATURE. We are all part of the interdependent web of existence, but because of our modern lifestyles, we have forgotten.
I often imagine how my ancestors may have lived. I guarantee they were outdoors more than in; there were animals and gardens to tend, children to raise, places to explore, trees to climb, things to build, and a life to be lived. I suspect vitamin D deficiencies weren’t a problem then, as it so often the case now.
I have a lot of special places “in nature”. The garden where I begin each day is one. But I think the place I feel most in touch with Gaia is when I’m in the ocean, or another large body of water like Lake Michigan, so close to where I grew up and lived much of my life. I feel enveloped in her embrace when I am surrounded by her waters. It is incredibly healing for me, and it’s been far too long since we’ve had a “visit”.
I love to hike, too. Being in the mountains surrounded by life is where I most frequently lose track of all (constructed) time, deadlines and any stresses of daily life. Thankfully, I work outdoors too, so it’s always pleasant to “go to work” and create garden spaces for others to enjoy and spend time healing.
We all need healing. This life-especially since the dawn of Covid-has been grueling. Too many people I know are either experiencing burnout or complete shutdown. Globally, it seems like there’s one major “catastrophe” after another. Just when we think we can breathe again, another blow.
My children (who are older than many of you reading this) are living in a world so very different from the one I experienced as a young person. My oldest is a nihilist and while I think it is less than helpful for him to have this worldview/philosophy, I understand it. The generations that came before (and had the opportunity to make changes decades ago that would literally save the planet for our children) broke our world out of selfishness and greed. We’ve left such a mess for them to clean up, haven’t we? Allow me to apologize to those of you reading this for the part that I played in the climate crisis. When I was a young mom, I didn't know what I didn't know--and I certainly didn't know how to, as Maya Angelou so eloquently stated, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."
I know better now, and I am doing better.
All of these things and more are why I spend so much time outdoors, under the big blue sky. I find healing in these natural spaces and learn to truly live. When I tell people, “It’s never too late to make a change”, I speak from experience and love. I think of Mary Oliver’s words as I type this: “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” It's never too late--what is it you feel called to do with your one wild and precious life?
It’s never too late to make changes to improve our own lives, and the lives of future generations, but we need to get busy making those changes now.
For nature’s sake.