Walking in the woods used to be a regular part of my life. I used to lead guided Nature walks for women in my local area. In 2017 and 2018 I did the Walk 1,000 Miles challenge, and in 2018 I spent many long hours in the woods speaking with the spirits of the trees as part of my research for my book If Trees Could Talk. Once the book was launched, I did a number of interviews talking about the transformative power of Nature and about how much I loved spending time alone in the woods.
And then something happened: I got caught up in the busyness of life, and I no longer “had time” for my Nature walks. I used to have a recurring event in my Google Calendar for my weekly walks, but it got to the point where I had cancelled so many of them that I simply deleted the recurring event…and with that, I lost my regular reminder to get outdoors. You can imagine what happened then: I stopped walking completely.
I was still connecting with plant spirits on a regular basis, because I was working my way through a Shamanic Plant Spirit Healing Apprenticeship, but I felt like I had lost my connection with the trees. And trees had always been an important part of my life.
After months of this, I finally set aside the time for a walk: I chose a crisp Sunday when I had no plans and the weather was supposed to be sunny and clear. I hopped on a train to a nearby town with plans to walk home from there, along the North Downs Way, a long distance trail in southern England.
The first couple of hours were rough: there was an event going on, and I was constantly being passed by runners. It was a strange transition back into the world of Nature and walking in the woods. But eventually, their route veered off from my own, and I was suddenly alone in the woods. Things were back to normal. I felt at home.
From there, I walked the rest of the way in peace and silence: mostly alone, occasionally passing another walker or two. It was glorious. Step by step, I felt myself reconnecting to Nature and to the trees. And, of course, I wondered to myself why I had ever let myself break this habit of getting outdoors on a regular basis.
This led me to reflect on my priorities in life. We all have the same 24 hours a day, seven days a week as everyone else. We have limited time to do the things that we want to do. And it’s our own responsibility to create the life that we each want to live.
When putting together my plans and my goals for 2020, Nature featured prominently on the list. I signed up for an ethnobotany course and a wildlife identification course, I planned quarterly “walkcations” (longer walking holidays) and I signed up for the more advanced level of my Shamanic Plant Spirit Healing Apprenticeship. I planned to continue advancing through my OBOD Ovate Grade coursework.
These were my priorities for the year. I made sure to book things into the calendar that would ensure that I spent long hours in Nature, both learning new things and also just soaking up the energy that I feel when I’m in the outdoors.
There were plenty of things I wanted to add, but I knew I wouldn’t have time for: another navigation course in Yorkshire, and a wilderness quest. I had to set my priorities, and there simply wasn’t enough time in the year to do all the things that I wanted to do. Some things were kept on the list for 2021 and beyond.
And so I’d like to ask you: what are you doing to make your connection with Nature a priority in your life? What are you doing to create the life you want to live? What can you do to spend more time in Nature?
What can you do to make sure it actually happens? For me, it’s all about booking things into my calendar and then blocking off the time so that I don’t schedule anything else that might conflict. Then, if I’m tempted to do something else, I need to delete the time block for going outdoors. It makes it easier to stop and make a conscious decision about what my priorities are.
I’m making a lot of assumptions in asking these questions, but if you’re reading this blog then I think it’s probably safe to assume you’re either an established Nature lover or you’re simply curious about animism…or something in between. I’d like to encourage you to get outdoors: to connect with Nature and with the spirits that reside in the woods: the trees, the plants, the animals. The spirits of the earth, the water, the air.
I find that when I’m alone in the outdoors, I feel the presence of these spirits around me in ways that I don’t when I’m in a more urban environment. Yes, you can connect with the Nature spirits in your back garden or in your local park. You can also connect with the spirits of your houseplants. But it’s in the woods that I feel these spirits most clearly and easily. And I suspect that you might feel the same.
How would you like to connect with the Nature spirits? When do you have time to get outdoors and visit them? How can you make it happen? Add it to your diary or your online calendar and make it a priority today. If your connection with Nature is important to you, don’t put it off. Make it a priority by actually blocking off the time to make it happen.
Holly Worton is a podcaster and author of nine books who helps people get to know themselves better through connecting with Nature, so they can feel happier and more fulfilled. Holly enjoys spending time outdoors, walking long-distance trails and exploring Britain’s sacred sites. She is a member of the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids.