Rain or shine: my month long nature bootcamp

May 27, 2014

hCan you believe May is almost coming to an end? Rain/shine/gloriously torrential downpours/surprise scorchers (is it really 28 degrees in Toronto today?) – I’ve soaked every bloomin’ day of it in. That was NOT that case in April when I was drained of all life force knocked over sideways with a crazy multi-tentacled flu virus for much of it. All that time cooped up indoors sapped my spirits to the point that I morphed into at least 4 of the 7 dwarves.

I have to give props to to the David Suzuki Foundation and Suzuki’s own Queen of Green herself, Lindsay Coulter, for encouraging me to sign up again this spring for their inspiring 30×30 Challenge. No matter the weather, no matter your mood, you had to spend 30 minutes outdoors in nature for 30 days straight. Sounds easy when the sun is shining, the birds are chirping and you’re itching to get out there walking, running, hiking, biking, gardening, whatever, but some dreary drizzly days are, hm, shall we say, less than motivating. In the end, I loved them all.

Here’s my original piece from early May. I feel like I should have done a before and after pic. One with a bad case of cabin fever (and a literal fever) and one beaming from ear to ear, soaking in spring’s life force, moment by moment. Thank you, Nature, for being so naturally awe-inspiring.  And thank you, Suzuki Foundation friends. I needed that.

Soggy grey clouds are wringing themselves out on the streets of Toronto, and I’m at my computer ticking boxes asking how agitated or energized I’ve been feeling. “Have I felt so alive I just want to burst?” Hmm. Clearly this is a sign I need a kick in the ass. Thankfully, I’m signing up for one from David Suzuki himself.

Suzuki’s not doing the actual kicking, but every May his foundation signs Canadians up to commit to 30 minutes in nature for 30 days as part of its 30 x 30 Challenge. The national well-being-boosting campaign asks participants to take an official psychological pre- and post-nature-injection survey. The whole thing kind of made me want to lie down on a shrink’s couch at first.

I consider myself a pretty happy, upbeat person. But from the look of my survey answers, something was obviously off. I couldn’t put my finger on it before, but the solution smacks me upside the head: I need to get outside.

Committing to 30 minutes in nature sounds like a breeze, I know – until you realize that May can be a pretty wet month. Grey skies are a little uninspiring, and on drizzly days I park the bike and opt for transit. (I’d never survive Vancouver.) But now I’m committed to track down a park, a ravine – anything green really – and stroll tree-lined side streets no matter the forecast.

It takes a little internal goading at first, but making time for those 30 minutes, well, it’s magic. I’d normally bypass the ravine near my house to speed-walk to the bus, but today the trickling brook, chirping birds and rustling leaves (mementos of fall) envelop me in nature’s surround-sound amphitheatre. It doesn’t matter if the sun hasn’t been seen for days. Between the budding treetops, flashes of neon-green moss and purple violets, it’s as though nature is warming up its best singers and dancers for a wild cabaret to celebrate spring. 

If you’re far from decent hiking grounds, have your morning coffee outside, skip the gym and jog outdoors, suggest a walking meeting at work. Even a little parkette should have a tree under which you can read/sketch/write. All I need is a single big ol’ tree. There’s something expansive, transformative that happens when you really stop to take in the vibes and wondrous skyward twisting limbs of those giant woody gods. It’s like a mini-meditation without the ponytailed guru. 

Take 30 minutes to escape the concrete jungle and the heady traffic jams of the information highway, and your day, no matter how it started, is enchantingly purified. Less than a week in, I feel relaxed and healthier. Have I felt so alive I just want to burst? Actually, check.

*This article originally appeared in NOW Magazine.