Nature is a mirror
by Niamh Geoghegan
I started Humanature in 2019, with the intention to offer a variety of nature based programmes and experiences to people of all ages. This came about after many years creatively and personally exploring the idea of connection and belonging. I journeyed from a Social Science student to solo traveller, field worker, dreamer, carer, clown, arts coordinator, facilitator, van dweller, mother, herbalist, dancer, nature dweller, collaborator and then on to here as a forest school and nature connection practitioner. It has been clear through my own life choices that the seemingly unconnected choices I made along the way were ultimately connected and leading me exactly to where I need to be in the here and now. To understand the importance of play, I had to play. To understand the power of creativity and imagination, I had to feel what happened when I followed mine. And to understand nature as ally and teacher I needed reasons to immerse myself there. The work I do has grown out of a deep belief in the transformative power of play and imagination, coupled with a deep desire for connection and belonging. Nature is abundant, generously offering us healing and inspiration, once we recognise ourselves are part of the web that connects all things and are open to receive.
“We are not separate from the earth; we are as much a part of the planet as each cell in our bodies is a part of us.” Mike Samuels, M.D and Hal Zina Benner, Well Body, Well Earth
What is Play ? Play is the work of children. It is the universal language of childhood. It is through play that children understand each other and make sense of the world around them. Play is fun. It is permission to be curious and follow that. When we observe a child in deep play there is almost a magical quality about it, the secret of which lies in the imagination of that child. Play can be a solitary adventure or a collaborative one.
Play is something that can happen both indoors and outdoors, but the quality of play is very much deepened when it happens outside in nature. Nature stimulates and rewards children’s inherent curiosity through the engagement of all of their senses.
Nature is generous and constant and when we begin to spend time there we begin to understand our place. We begin to cultivate a connection with the natural world. By spending time in nature we begin to challenge this age old cultural belief that we are somewhat separate to or dominant over nature and instead understand our place in the web of all living things. In the preschool forest school setting that I work from, there is a tree the children call “ Grandma Tree” The kids love to climb it and sit there, resting their backs against the tree trunk. It is these simple and heart felt connections with nature that begin to deepen our love and understanding of the natural world.
In order to create a more harmonious future, one that recognises we are part of and not dominant over nature, we first need to be able to imagine it and feel it. And to really imagine something, we first need to be able to feel it. Experience it- touch, taste, smell, see, hear and feel it.
Play is the gateway into our imagination, and without imagination there is no hope or change. As Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems using the same thinking we used when we created them.” In order to create a more harmonious future, one that recognises we are part of and not dominant over nature, we first need to be able to imagine it and feel it. And to really imagine something, we first need to be able to feel it. Experience it- touch, taste, smell, see, hear and feel it. When we do not see ourselves as part of the world around us, we stop taking care of ourselves. We feel a sense of separation and with this feeling comes destruction and harm- to ourselves, our communities and the natural world. Currently, we are all connected globally through our shared sense of helplessness. We feel powerless.
When we live by what we feel is right, simply being here, in our small, everyday actions and thoughts we all have the power to change the world. When we step outside of our own small worlds and open up to remembering that we are part of something much bigger, this brings joy. Living with and discovering nature brings such joy. W e need to celebrate nature and remember rituals, showing respect for all of the other beings which have been part of the millions of connections that have happened in order to bring us here at this very moment in time.
To understand the importance of play, I had to play. To understand the power of creativity and imagination, I had to feel what happened when I followed mine. And to understand nature as ally and teacher I needed reasons to immerse myself there. The work I do has grown out of a deep belief in the transformative power of play and imagination, coupled with a deep desire for connection and belonging.
The natural world is an interconnected web of communication systems, co-existing and interdependent on each other. We are part of this web. We are all made from the same stuff and will like everything else return to the soil. Where there is a healthy eco-system there are healthy humans and vice-versa. When we take care of ourselves, understanding our place in the bigger picture.
Go for a walk. Walk until you come upon something that makes you stop. Something that creates a sense of wonder, curiosity or surprise. Stop. Settle. Observe. Nature is a mirror.
“We don’t stop playing, because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw. When children play, they engage all their sense. They imagine a stick to be a tiger, a stone a boat. They are fully embodied in that moment and time. They are experiencing things around them, perceiving things through nature’s lens and therefore gaining a deeper understanding of the world around them of which they are very much a part. Spending time in nature connects us to our inner child. It awakens our sense of adventure and curiosity. When we take time to reconnect with ourselves, aligned with and not against nature, we remember how to feel. When we pursue a life that brings joy and completely immerse ourselves in what we are doing in the here and now, then we realise that what we have been calling work is actually play. It all matters. And so I invite you to step outside in nature. Go for a walk. Walk until you come upon something that makes you stop. Something that creates a sense of wonder, curiosity or surprise. Stop. Settle. Observe. Nature is a mirror. Ask yourself what was it about this place that made you stop there today? Listen. What is nature whispering to you today?