From a biological stand point the need to be social and part of a tight knit community would have been necessary for the survival of our ancestors. An individual on their own would be the first to get picked off by predators not to mention gathering and preserving enough food, firewood and maintaining appropriate shelter for winter all by yourself; probably not going to happen. That’s why the feeling of isolation being a bad thing is so ingrained into our DNA, it’s kept us alive for centuries; and DNA is slow to change.
Let me give you the back story as to why I’m talking about this.
I am currently discovering, as a mom on maternity leave, that Winnipeg has plenty of Mommy and baby groups in my area, one of which I went to yesterday. Mommy baby groups to my understanding are supposed to be places where mom’s with babies can have a place to get out of the house, socialize and find solace in knowing that all those weird things your baby does are totally normal and their babies do them too. On this particular day I was feeling the need to socialize.
But solace I did not find and I left the group feeling more isolated than when I showed up. The thought of going home to spend the rest of the afternoon in the house alone filled my chest with anxiety. The kind of fight or flight type response genetically designed to keep me from being eaten by grizzlies, but there are no grizzlies in St. James. Just me and a 3 month old alone in a parking lot.
I decided to try and ease my shaking nerves by finding some nature therapy and drove to the Assiniboine Park Conservancy. Here both baby and I could gaze at the beautiful tropical plants and take in their wonder. Even if there was no one I knew there at least it was somewhere to go and it was pretty. I opened the door to the atrium and was hit with a wall of earthy and sweet smelling humidity. We slowly made our way down the path from the door to the Koi pond, here we stood and watched fish of all sizes circle the pond, poking at leaves that had fallen into the water; but it was at the fountain where we truly paused. I sat down on the bench, wanting to leave nothing unnoticed, take it all in, focus on nothing else. I looked for movement. At first I just saw the droplets of water splashing from one level down to the next, leaving small bubbles where they landed which skimmed across the surface of the water before popping. Then I noticed the whispy plant growing over the top bubbler shook just slightly with the gentle rushing of the water through its roots, and a small spider web at it’s very top waved on breathes of wind felt only by it. In between the first and second levels of the fountain a minuscule swarm of fruit flies hovered, almost invisible to the naked eye. At one point in time a raven flew over the gardens glass ceiling. So many tiny and fleeting movements that could so easily have been missed.
This technique of focusing on finding all things moving in nature and allowing yourself to be completely engulfed in the experience is one of the invitations commonly used in forest bathing; a Japanese form of nature therapy. There’s too much to share about forest bathing; what it is, what it does and why it works to go into it right now. For now I’ll just share that this simple practice had calmed my shaking nerves and left me feeling content and peaceful.
I could end there but I also want to quickly mention the wonderful park volunteer who really made my day extra special. Because of her I got to socialize with someone over the age of 3 months. Something I hadn’t been able to accomplish earlier in my day. We had a wonderful conversation spanning many topics and probably taking a solid 45 minutes of her time.
Thank you conservatory; thank you for the plants that fill you, the animals who call you home, and the volunteers who share their time with mom’s who just need to chat. I went to stare at plants and left feeling connected, relaxed and grounded.