“Almost everything that our senses pick out is eager to tell us a story that will help us make a connection.” ~Tristan Gooley, How to Read Nature
Being in nature is good for us. I, for one, am fascinated by forest bathing and its remarkable effects on our health.
So I expected that reading Tristan Gooley’s new book, How to Read Nature: An Expert’s Guide to Discovering the Outdoors You’ve Never Noticed would impact how I experience our family hikes in the Colorado mountains. (I now know how to use a crescent moon to guide my way south–very cool.)
But I was pleasantly surprised by how much this book changed my morning walks with my dog. Gooley’s pithy writing and unique observations woke me up, jostled me out of my pre-coffee fuzziness.
As my dog and I stroll through the riverfront park by our apartment, I now notice the stickiness of the sidewalk under a blooming crabapple tree and think of all the tiny insects thriving on that nectar. I see the clouds pass the sun in gossamer waves, knowing that in many hours they’ll coalesce into an afternoon thunderstorm.
Instead of wrinkling my nose at the sometimes briny smell of the Platte River where it meets Cherry Creek, I stop and inhale and wait. I see dragonflies skimming the surface of the water. I think of how thirsty they must be, just as I am, on a hot summer morning. I hear the scuttling scratches of squirrels circling tree trunks as my dog and I approach, chirping their warnings to each other and peering at us before dashing up the old trees.
My senses are open to the nature that is always around us, even here in the city.
How to Read Nature includes 15 exercises to awaken your senses. I’m going to share just three (Exercises 1, 9 and 10) of the 15 because, really, you need to add this delightful little book to your must-have list the next time you visit your favorite book store.
How to Read Nature
“Whilst still indoors, I would like you to close your eyes (after reading the rest of this paragraph) and breathe ten times, deeply and slowly, in through your nostrils and out through your nostrils . . . . Now stand outdoors and repeat the exercise. Ten breaths, deeply, slowly, nostrils only. Compare the experience.”
Part I: “Go for a three-minute walk outdoors. Note down the things your eyes are drawn towards. If we have an understanding of the things our brain is likely to prioritize then we can temporarily override this pecking order and we will start to see new things.”
Part II: “Repeat your three-minute walk, following the same route, only this time try to ignore anything that moves, as much as is safely possible. Let your eyes be drawn to things that remain still. Ignore everything that shows any motion at all, people, animals, leaves in a breeze. It should feel a little peculiar and lead to you noticing at least a few things that you overlooked on your first walk.”
“Stand outside and listen for one minute. Note down everything you hear. It is impossible to hear the same soundtrack twice outdoors. If we think we do, then it is just a sign that we are not focusing on what we hear. Our sensitivity to time is one measure of our sense of hearing. We will hear the minutes passing in the coming and going of creatures, the hours passing in the rise and fall of birdsong, and the months passing as every single sound shifts: the wind we hear in the trees changes as the leaves fall, and the sounds of our footsteps ebb with each fall of rain or snow.”
Photo Credit: Shutterstock