Globally, a growing number of nurses are intentionally partnering with Mother Nature, incorporating her natural elements into their practice as awareness grows of the essential role our natural world plays in our health and well-being. Connecting with our natural environment is now recognized as important to living a healthy lifestyle as getting rest, eating well, exercising and managing stress. In fact, nature significantly impacts all of these pillars of health.
Atiya Wells is one such nurse. She has founded Backyard Basecamp and now dedicates her full practice to this. I am pleased to share information about this site, which I paid a visit to recently; which is sure to be the envy of many cities.
Under the watchful eye of a wild, resident red fox, the sun gently rising behind him/her, I gave myself a self-guided tour of Backyard Basecamp, something I have been wanting to experience for quite a long time. For those who may not know about this 10-acre natural space in urban Baltimore, allow me to introduce you to this magical location. Part camp, part park, part farm, part playground, classroom, community center, health retreat, sacred space, and wildlife sanctuary, this communal area fills several needs in the local community.
I have been virtually admiring Atiya’s work for years. A few years ago, she caught my attention on social media with her first bold crowdfunding campaign to raise six figures for her vision to transform this unkempt lot into a welcoming natural space in order to (Re)connect Black, Indigenous and people of color to land and nature in the city of Baltimore. Atiya’s tenacity, can-do spirit, and connection to the land reminded me of another Black leader I admire, Rev. Richard Joyner, past recipient of the CNN heroes award. Both of these vivacious leaders seemed to have no fear and no limits, only big audacious dreams. They have a fierce passion to help their neighbors live healthier lives. I love these kinds of people!
With the help of a growing team, Atiya, and friends have created pocket gardens that allow local residents to engage with, and connect with nature.
At the entrance of the property is a little library filled with books. Just a few steps behind it, a fully-fenced garden filled with healthy greens and flowers. The bushy kale was glistening with an early season frost. They have generously donated thousands of pounds of freshly grown produce to their neighbors!
Walking down the trail, just a bit, I found a hoop house, and evidence that this crew is not afraid of hard, manual labor. This crew means business. They have big machinery on site, and future machine operators practicing with Tonka Trucks in a play space dedicated to children.
No farm is complete without animals. Chickens clucked away in their coop area, while goats bleated and gathered closer to the fence, perhaps in hopes that I brought food. The lambs behind them lounged on the grass. They looked very content to be here.
Doing their part to enhance our planet, they have planted trees, many which will bear fruit. Honey bees have a home here, as well, and plenty of pollinator plants to feast on.
Sauntering further along the main trail and I took a short diversion circling a small pond where one can sit and meditate, contemplate or pray. A perfect place to cultivate the practice of Blue Mind: a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peace, unity and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment that comes being on, in, near or under water.
The trail goes further into a 7-acre wooded space where people can also gather. A wide-open field makes me wonder what this group will come up with next.
All of this hard work has not gone unnoticed. In fact, Greg Cantori, the former owner of the lot adjacent to Backyard Basecamp, gave his lot, including a rundown house, to Atiya calling it an act of reparations. The farmhouse is being restored now and will provide some indoor space for the camp.
Atiya, and crew, have been featured on the Kelly Clarkson Show, numerous articles, news programs, and have won several awards including the first WW Wellness Impact Award.
In an era plagued with disease, strife, stress, friction, and inequity, Atiya Wells and all of the people supporting, and engaging, in Backyard Basecamp are a beaming light of hope, change and positivity. Be sure to follow them on social media: Twitter @Backyard_Base , Instagram @Backyard_Basecamp, Facebook @BackyardBasecamp. See for yourself all they do in this magical space! Their website: www.BackyardBasecamp.org .
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