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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For many of us living in the Northern Hemisphere, the world outside our doors is going through its annual Autumn rituals. The full Hunter’s Moon just beamed in the dark cool sky, then lingered long into the morning before setting. Pumpkins, gourds and other fall vegetables are bountiful. The magnificent foliage show is performing right before our eyes.
Following the lead of the trees, we too can shed what no longer serves us in order to store up energy to grow stronger. Deciduous trees of all types are cutting of their connection with the leaves that grew on their fingertips, once lush and green; allowing them to metamorphosize into blazing shades of reds gold, orange, eventually into brown.
We can lighten our load, too, so we can retain our positive energy for the darker months ahead. Let’s take a look at how each of us can do this, letting go of one leaf at a time.
First, we need to identify what no longer serves us. Maybe we aren’t eating the food that best nourishes our bodies and we need to let go of unhealthy choices. Who are the people in our life that we may love, but they are constantly dragging us down with their drama? What limiting beliefs are we allowing to invade our minds, filling us with doubt or fear? As you identify your dying leaves, write them down if you need to. There’s no rush. Notice how all the leaves don’t fall off a tree in one moment. It’s a slow process. We can shed our leaves slowly too.
Next, go outside and pick up some leaves, then stand next to a pond or river. Pick one of the items on your list, let’s say, for example, “I am letting go of doing for others what they can do for themselves.” Toss the leave into the water, mentally releasing this burden, and watch as the leaf floats away. Repeat, release, as often as you desire over this Autumn season. Notice the relief you may feel, a sense of newfound inner strength, perhaps space to fill with new, more positive thoughts, relationships, or behaviors.
As the days ahead continue to darken, we may want to use this time to go deeper inside ourselves. Reflect on the year that has passed, write down what we are grateful for, and explore what exciting ideas and desires are starting to stir inside our newly cleared space.
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Writing is a wonderful craft that allows us to share thoughts, information and maybe even inspire others in some way. It requires discipline, tenacity, and if we are to practice this craft long-term, self-care.
The act of writing often requires long sessions of sitting, most often in front of a computer. Lucky for us, there is an antidote for the potential job hazards a writer may incur. It lies right outside our door.
Let’s take a look at three, although there are many more reasons, we may want to stop what we are doing right now, or schedule breaks during our day, to go outside and take a walk.
ONE: A walk outdoors can boost our creativity. A study comparing walking in different settings found that walking outdoors has the most beneficial impact on stimulating the free flow of ideas.
Do you take a stroll in nature to enhance your writing? I know I do. I always venture outdoors and meander, or power walk around the neighborhood, or in a local park. The ideas that flow into my mind can be almost overwhelming at times. The ideas that I want to hold onto, I dictate into the Voice Memos app on my phone to record them in rough draft. Some, I transcribe later for various writing projects.
TWO: Writing is generally a solo journey. Isolation and loneliness can be a side-effect. Walking outdoors often leads to contact with other people, which may present a chance to have a chat, especially if they have a cute puppy with them.
THREE: Taking steps in natural surroundings is good for our overall health. According the Center for Disease Control, one in four American adults sits for longer than eight hours every day. Our sedentary habit even has a new name, sitting disease, and has been called the new smoking. The American Heart Foundation outlines the many negative consequences of sitting and ways you can improve breaking the habit of prolonged sitting.
Does walking outdoors awaken your creativity? Share how in the comments section below.
To learn more about how walking can enhance your health and well-being, I invite you to listen to this podcast, while you are outside taking your walk: The Joys and Benefits of Walking with no Destination from 1a.
Don't stop there. Visit The Nature Nurse™, PLLC website where there are an enormous amount content on how engaging with nature can enhance your joy, and improve your holistic health. Be sure to sign up for our free e-newsletter.
Update July 30, 2021: In light of the CDC announcement today that the Delta Variant of the Covid-19 virus is highly transmissible, we continue to encourage you to get vaccinated if you are eligible, wear a mask indoors and outdoors if you are going to be close to other people not in your household. Please follow your local health recommendations. Covid-19 is spread through the air--think cigarette smoke. If you are standing close enough to someone that you could smell cigarette smoke if they were smoking, you need to have a mask on, and so do they. Stay Safe.
Have you ever given a child a gift, only to find that they find more delight in playing with the box that the present came in? Many times it's simplicity that brings us joy. Whether it is a large cardboard box that ignites creative possibilities, or a sunflower field filled with thousands of sunflowers blooming together, simplicity has the power to turn down the volume in our brains and allows us to focus, relax, and connect.
Across the United States this summer, sunflower fields are attracting people of all ethnicities, ages, genders, and socioeconomic status, to delight in the awesomeness of our natural world. Take a look:
When humans have the opportunity to delight in the wonder of nature together, the differences between us seem to disappear.
There is also an opportunity to educate about our environment. Take a look at these signs that were dotted along the sunflower field:
Creating an environment that helps us all feel as one can be as simple as planting a seed, or maybe a few thousand. Perhaps you want to Google "sunflower fields near me" and experience this phenomenon for yourself. Let us know how it goes.
Credit: Thank you Dorothea Dix Park in Raleigh for planting this awesome sunflower field. As of this posting, you may still catch the tail end of the blooming, Visit DixPark.org for details.
Want to learn more about how to experience the Joy Of Nature? Enroll in our online workshop: Joy Of Nature Online Workshop