Nature is important to me. The main reason I’m making this post is that I sometimes forget that, which I don’t like doing.
I’ve been into nature as long as I can remember. I was always interested in animals as a kid. The biggest focus was horses when I was younger, followed by developing an interest in birds and other more local wildlife. I have an affinity for farm animals too – just ask anyone how I react to walking past fields of sheep or goats (hint: it often involves the words “I love sheep/goats”). I’ve always liked to climb trees, and being in forests feels instinctively right. I love to be near fresh water, and sometimes feel like I’m fighting the urge to jump right in when I stand at a lake.
I have a complicated relationship with seasons and the weather. I’m sometimes very affects by particular weather conditions, and I tend to feel unsettled at times when the seasons are changing most quickly. But I also know that this pattern of seasonal change is instinctive for me, and it would probably feel much more wrong for me to live somewhere like the equator where seasons are almost nonexistent. I don’t consider myself religious or spiritual, but I celebrate solstices, equinoxes, and cross-quarter days, because marking the cycle of nature feels important to me.
I’m not describing these things to mark myself out as particularly different or unusual – I know that lots of people feel a personal connection to animals, plants, or nature in general. I’m really just writing this for myself, as a reminder that these things are important to me.
Sometimes I forget, because I’m not always able to ‘connect’ with nature as much as I ideally would. It’s difficult for me to get out into nature – anxiety, executive dysfunction, and general trouble with travelling are not particularly conducive to a life in the wilderness. But I try not to let myself feel guilty about that. Being sometimes unable to connect with nature doesn’t mean nature isn’t important for me. In the same way as being, say, physically unable to get to church wouldn’t make someone any less religious.
I have a connection to nature, and – like everything in my life – that connection is modulated by my disability. I say modulated, because it’s much more complicated than just being “limited” or “prevented”. Aspects of my connection with nature are because I’m autistic and anxious.
Going out with my camera to photograph birds is probably one of the closest things I experience to meditation. I absolutely see the value of things like meditation, but they’re also generally not suited to me. I find it hard to keep still, I feel unsettled and stressed if I don’t have enough sensory input, and my mind has a constant stream of thoughts and anxiety ready to fill up any gaps I make by ‘clearing my head’. Traditional meditation is basically an unpleasant experience, and doesn’t do anything for me.
But going out birdwatching is a pretty close alternative. I get to move around, I can focus my senses on looking and listening out for birds, and it’s calming but still engaging enough to prevent the undercurrent of anxiety from filling up all the space by default.
It’s also a pretty ‘antisocial’ activity, in the best way. It’s not that I can’t or wouldn’t want anyone else to come with me, and it’s not that I don’t enjoy sharing the photos I take. It’s just that those things are completely incidental to the activity. I go looking for birds because it’s something that I enjoy, and that’s it. While I’m walking through the trees with my camera, other people are irrelevant.
It doesn’t matter whether there’s anyone around, or whether I’m going to show my photos to someone else, or whether I’m unhappy about some relationship or another. It’s something that reinforces my own edges from within, which is not generally an easy thing for me to do. So this post is my reminder, to myself. Nature is good for me.