It was one of those days- sunny, warm, green, lush. No season other than spring could offer such a prize as a day like this. It was a day of laughter, camaraderie, observation, learning, and sharing. It was a native plant tour; a bus load of people from as many walks of life as there were participants in the outing. Old and young, experienced and novice, professional and amateur, shy and bold. But by the end of the day, on the way home from our tour, everyone knew everyone. I had said happy birthday, congratulations on a new baby, expressed sympathy for the purchaser of a ramshackle house, and left with new friends.
There’s something about going out with others to enjoy nature that has a tendency to bring people together in a completely unique way. I couldn’t help smiling when I heard bounding enthusiasm in my neighbour’s voice over a particular plant, or as I watched as everyone crowd around our guide, anxious not to miss a word he said about the specimens before us. This was a special group of people on a special mission: to enjoy being in nature together.
I couldn’t help but think to myself as I made my way home that the storied solo quests into nature, wonderful and powerful as they are, shouldn’t overshadow the value of being out there with others. So much less revered is the idea that venturing out into the wilds with others can be a powerful experience all its own, and one that leaves not just you replenished and restored, but the others with whom you interacted as well.
I was left with a strong impression as the day came to a close. What many of us seek as we make our way to the wildlands is a feeling of connection, connection to something deeper than the everyday hubbub allows us to experience, connection with something bigger, something timeless, and with our own selves. My excursion with other ecology enthusiasts highlighted that connection with people, with nature, and with ourselves, go hand in hand in a surprisingly natural and possibly necessary way.
Just as we tend to exclude nature from our idea of ‘community’, so we often exclude people from what we consider a ‘true’ experience of nature. But bring the two together and the blend of human and natural community building has a strength not to be underestimated.
Ecological woes can easily get us down; the word futility is likely used nowhere more than in the environmental community. There is nothing more de-motivating than one’s loss of hope. And there is nothing more re-motivating than a day spent with people who, with each other’s energy, can know again that there’s plenty to be done, and plenty of us to do it.
Zoe Dalton is a graduate of York University’s environmental science program, and is currently enjoying working towards a Master of Arts in Integrated Studies with Athabasca U. She can be reached for comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.