Adventures in Nature with NCC
Sponsored by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC)
Being surrounded by nature has been a hugely important part of our lives for years now, however over the last year and a half we have changed our priorities and made exploring our top goal. It used to be that we made it to the mountains almost every weekend to “run the kids”, give them a new place to burn that extra energy and allow us to see some pretty things. Living in Calgary, Alberta, we experience winter the majority of the year, and this west coast mama has had a very difficult time adjusting to these colder temperatures. Getting outside in summer was just a crucial idea for me as we are stuck indoors during those long winter months. This mindset quickly changed into something, more of a weekend requirement as time went on. When the NCC reached out to me about this project I was so excited to take the quiz and see what my score would be. To work hard at trying to experience new things and learn more about what I love to do most.
When I first took the nature quiz, I was surprised to score a 4.33, making me feel really great about myself. I love nature and being in nature(it’s my therapy from long weeks in the city), but I knew I had a lot to learn and was so excited to be partnering up with a nature expert for a hike in the mountains! I honestly did not know what it was going to be like, but I am so thankful for everything I took away.
We met at Grassi Lakes in Canmore, Alberta, which I have driven by many times without knowing it was there, and I now have on my list of hikes to return to. We met nature expert Kristen Stuart at the trailhead, and we began our trip up the more difficult hike (which I recommend because the view is unreal) and came back down the easy path. On our way up she described the trees around us, talked about the individual tree barks and what makes them special, and I was already blown away by how much I didn’t already know, and what views I was taking in.
One thing she spoke about as we were going up the mountain that stuck out to me most was about being present in nature. This is something I am working on in my daily life, but not something I necessarily thought about while being in nature specifically. She said the past is depression, the future is anxiety, and the present is the only thing you can control. Once this was said, my entire perspective changed, and I was honestly blown away by how much more I could enjoy my time there once I changed my mindset.
One other takeaway I have from this incredible experience was to try focusing on one sense at a time, whether that be sound, sight, smell, etc. We were silent for about 5 minutes just to focus on sounds, I heard the waterfall much clearer, the different bird sounds, and the rustling of leaves in the wind. It was incredible. We had a short 5-minute meditation at the top of the hike near the waterfall, and that is an experience I will never forget. I am not the best at sitting still or calming down in any sense, but she helped me to just sit in stillness. Concentrating on the present and what was around us, washing away anything I couldn’t control, and just having a “nature bath” and soaking up my surroundings.
I now see time in nature differently, it doesn’t have to be in the Rockies or anywhere extravagant. It can be with your kids at the park or going for a walk near the river, or wherever you can be outside. Take in the present moment, listen to your surroundings watch the way birds and other animals behave in their habitats and take in the smells of the wet leaves and summer breeze.
I did retake the Nature Quiz after my experience and I got an even higher score at 4.5 out of 5, making me a “Next Level Naturalist” which I am pretty darn proud of. It states in the description “Planting native wildflowers, forest bathing or volunteering with nature conservation organizations are just a few ways that Next Level Naturalists like yourself can strengthen their connection with nature” – and I am going to do just that.
I strongly suggest taking the Nature Quiz here to find out your own Nature Score and then sign up for Nature Coach, a series of emails geared to your Nature Score. Nature Coach provides tips, tools, and inspiration on how to stay connected to nature. I hope you can take something away from my experience and feel inspired to get outside wherever that is and be present in the moment surrounded by beauty and the great outdoors.