I’ve recently returned from spending two weeks on a small island a few hours’ journey from Vancouver and am feeling shocked yet inspired by what a couple of weeks off the grid has done for me.
I am at heart an urban creature – it’s how I grew up and simply how things have turned out for me, and for the most part it suits me fine. That said, from the first moment I laid eyes on “our” little slice of west coast paradise I was smitten, in part because it brought back memories of my parents hauling my brother and I off to a very similar situation for several summers when we were kids.
Not being well equipped for camping, we have finagled a shoulder-season rental of a modest beachfront cabin (we enjoyed the “luxury” this year of a new outdoor hot water shower – woo!) that is accessible by boat only. There are a few “cars” on the island – a motley assortment of vintage Range Rovers, golf carts and ATVs used to transport supplies to cabins from the dock, no stores or services of any kind, lots of trees and beaches, and that’s about it.
At the outset I was amazed at how tired I felt and how much I (and my husband and 6 year old daughter) slept – often we would go to bed at 10pm and not get up until 9am. There were a couple of nights where I went to such a deep level of sleep that I felt like I was coming out of a coma when I woke up. Incredible how so often we accept our state of being as “normal” without realizing that we are actually burnt out.
I loved the lack of electricity and how much more aware it made me of the changing light and time of day. Basically our routine went like this: wake up whenever, breakfast, walk/hike, lunch, beach, dinner, sleep, repeat. Eat when hungry, sleep when tired – such a simple concept, and yet one that I regularly override.
A major point of interest for us at any given time as what the tide was doing: whether it was high, low, going in, going out, etc – it’s actually really interesting. After a while I felt like I could almost feel its pull myself – such massive amounts of life and energy moving so close to us all the time. And then there were the stars and (of course!) the Moon. It’s amazing to me how much richness we miss with all of our lights, noises and being-in-a-hurryness. At times I sat and simply felt held by the Earth, just breathing, a state that I have fruitlessly tried to replicate countless times in yoga class.
And the smells: the 8 year old in me remembers exactly the same crispy-lichen-and-seaweed scent that in one whiff sums up the best moments of childhood summers. We would spend hours just poking around various beaches, seeing what we could see – tidal pools, crabs, eagles, more crabs, deer, shorebirds, shells, curiously shaped rocks, beach glass etc. Nowhere to go, nothing more important to do than just be there.
Seeing it all through the eyes of a 6 year old is one of the greatest gifts of my entire life. My daughter can happily spend hours investigating crickets and other insects, and of course crabs – always noticing how big they were, what colors or distinctive markings they had, and so on. One day’s great excitement was around an episode where a small bird filched a fish that a bald eagle had had its eye on – the chase that ensued was incredible, ending in a narrow escape by the more agile (although smaller) thief.
What this time away has showed me is that for all that I’m all about natural lifestyles and connecting with ourselves and the natural world, frankly I’m a little out of touch. No media, no driving, no Facebook, no buying anything, no movies or TV, no work, no music, no appointments, no errands – no nothing. I can honestly say that I didn’t miss any of it, which is pretty amazing since I am so passionate about my work. It was just time to let go.
I realized that in the city I am permanently making and ticking off an ongoing list in my mind that basically runs my life. It makes me pretty productive and efficient for sure, but carries its own weight and distraction, of which I am mostly unconscious. I have returned feeling quite chilled out, and yet highly sensitive to things like traffic, noise and chemical smells. I am now committed to finding new ways to build awareness of and nurture myself to connect with the Earth and her timing.
How do you connect with Nature, particularly in urban environments?