I use the word "necessary" because I believe that human beings are meant to spend the majority of their waking time outside, doing. I think that the increase in the diagnosis (as well as prescriptions for medications to treat those issues), for a host of mental and physical illnesses are due to the fact that people rarely spend any time engaged with the natural world; getting their hands dirty, breathing fresh air, listening (not just hearing), and seeing (not just looking at), sights and sounds that are naturally ocurring. I honestly believe that being indoors so much, and no longer being connected with nature, is truly driving people crazy. Add to that the national obesity problem and children who have no idea where their food comes from, and we have the makings of a disaster.
So read the latest email from The Wilderness Awareness School, go sign up, and then Go Outside!!!
"Welcome to Fear-ville"
One of the biggest obstacles to connecting with nature (and life in general) is fear.
As a kid growing up in New Jersey, I had what is now seen as an idyllic "free-range" childhood. My
parents instructed me to "Go outside and play -- and don't come back until dinnertime!"
I roamed the surrounding areas with bands of kids without adult supervision for the whole day.
Much of that time was spent in "the woods". A nearby nature place of swamps, trees, and stories
big enough to get lost in. I built forts, dug for treasure (or China), and always found something in
nature that I couldn't explain. I came home covered in mud with holes in my pants.
Cuts, scrapes, poison ivy, and the occasional sprained ankle from jumping out of a tree were par
for the course. I got cleaned up and applied band-aids where necessary. I ate dinner and went
to sleep, dreaming about the day's adventures.
"Stranger danger" wasn't a concept (and perhaps coincidentally, neither was the 24-hour CNN news
The infamous "Jersey Devil" was the only thing I knew for sure I didn't want to encounter
in the woods. Of course I knew that the Jersey Devil only came out at night on campouts, so I
crossed that off the list of potential dangers as well.
Things have changed.
Welcome to Fear-ville.
One of the most common fears is the fear of the unknown. Nature has become the unknown.
What was the last movie you saw about people who went into nature and had a fun, safe time?
If you exclude horror movies that take place at broken-down, creepy campgrounds,
the rest are usually about some struggle between humans and nature gone bad:
Bloodthirsty Sharks vs. Humans
Mutant Spiders vs. Humans
Gigantic Snakes vs. Humans
And my personal favorite:
Killer Slugs vs. Humans
You learn in these movies how dangerous nature is, and with every push of the red-tailed-hawk-call-button
some new life-threatening hazard appears to the fearful actors.
Contrary to portrayal in popular media, you are much safer spending time in nature than
many other aspects of your life (like driving).
So, the first big step to greater nature connection is realizing that everything in nature isn't "out to get you".
A little research will show you what the real nature hazards are in your area. (Do any poisonous
snakes even live nearby?)
Further investigation will teach you how to avoid these hazards, or what to do when you encounter them. Some
ideas for research:
Large Predators (Bear, Cougar, etc)
Venomous animals (Snakes, spiders,
Stinging/biting things (ticks, mosquitoes, etc)
Getting Lost (specifically, how to avoid it)
Anything else that is scary to you right now!
If you become familiar with all these topics, you will be on your way to a greater sense of
ease outdoors (and life).
As you learn more, you realize that your lack of knowledge and understanding can keep you away from
When I moved to Washington State, I had to come to terms with sharing the woods with Mountain Lions
and Bears. There may have been a few rogue individuals roaming the New Jersey wilds when I
was growing up, but seeing the Jersey Devil was probably more likely.
Frankly, I was afraid of these big predators. So, I read up on how to respond in encounters with
these larger predators. After that, I felt somewhat prepared. Later on I learned about
bird language, and felt really prepared.
I'll share more about bird language in a future email.
How well do you know your area? How comfortable are you there?
Download our free "Nature Tourist Test" and find out for yourself.