Wander and wonder
This week I had a desire to get to the forest. I wanted to wander among the trees, take in the smells, sights, and feel the fresh air.
I decided it was time to visit the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park in Aptos, California- a short drive from where I live. This place has a variety of trees that I love (coast redwoods, Bay laurels, oaks, firs, Big leaf maples) and water: Aptos Creek where I can sit or get my feet wet.
This time of year the golden big leaf maple leaves carpet the floor, dancing down from their branches to the damp ground.
How to wander
I think of wandering as a way to go for a walk while being in tune with my body and with nature. Using this awareness as a guidance system to lead me on my path. This activity is NOT destination-based, where the goal it to get to a place. But instead, the goal is the process of wandering. I focus on how I feel to guide me where to go and where to stop.
I like to start a wander with a few deep breaths to take in the moment and ground me into the place.
I’ll pick a trail to begin with and start walking with a slower pace, and slowing my breath. I’m leaving the rushing tempo I might have outside of this time.
Using my senses, I’ll smell the air, notice the temperature and weather, listen to the sounds of the forest and my footsteps, and feel the ground beneath me (first packed dirt or soft redwood duff or rocks). As I walk I’m letting my eyes wander too- across the ground, low bushes, eye level and up above. when something catches my attention, I move closer.
Sometimes I feel the nudge to reach out and pick up or touch something. I maintain my awareness of my senses (to prevent my mind from wandering to my to-do list!) and wonder about what I encounter.
Sometimes, I feel like I’d like to nature journal this thing/place right now. I record my noticings, wonderings and feeling on the page.
When I get to a split or fork in the trail, I notice the sensations in my body. Does it pull me to one direction or the other? Or does one direction look more appealing? And I go…..Trusting that whatever choice I make will take me to where I need to go.
As I walk I might get drawn to the over look, then back track to the main trail. Sometimes my co-pilot, Macy (border collie) chooses one path or another. I watch her for signs.
On this day, I notice the ferns!
And remember last time I was here, I told myself to look at the backs of the ferns next time. The patterns that the spores make are diagnostic (meaning it can tell me which species). So I took photos of the front and backs of each type of fern I encountered.
Sometimes I’m drawn to journaling in that spot, but today, I decided to photograph them- and continue my wander.
There is no right or wrong way to do this- because its all about the journey where ever it takes me.
Later I looked up because I heard ravens calling from overhead. I couldn’t see them, but I did notice the golden maple leaves drifting down from above, to the water. I looked around at all the leaves in the water, or plastered on the river rock.. and I had an inspiration!
Collect leaves and cover a boulder, with a gradient of color! This is in the vein of Andy Goldsworthy, who creates art in nature with nature…
I only gave myself 5 minutes so its not as intricate as his work-but it’s my ephemeral art created with the big leaf maple trees.
Scanning the river, I took in the beauty with my senses.
Stopping to nature journal
I discovered a flat-topped boulder would be a perfect seat where I could nature journal. I did some contour drawings of my found treasures. Contour drawings are a super calming activity for me. It puts me in a mindful state, soothing the inner critic, and allowing me to be in the moment with the nature treasures I was drawing.
Contour drawings give me permission to slow down and observe nature in a mindful way, not worrying about making an accurate or realistic drawing.
Sometimes, I write a list of birds, or trees, or colors. Or I put down questions I have, or what I’m feeling in the moment.
This nature journal session was more relaxed and focused on present moment awareness- and less about biology or botany, or scientific exploration.
I lost track of time, and my alarm told me I needed to get going. I stood up, thanked this beautiful place, and headed back to my car.
Now your turn
Have you been feeling out of sorts, or irritable, or lacking inspiration? Perhaps you can try a wander in your nearby nature. It doesn’t have to be a forest– you can go in your yard, or urban neighborhood- or even an outdoor shopping mall.
How do you feel afterward? Where did you go and what did you feel? I’d love to hear.
If you’d like to deepen your nature connection and feel replenished, you can work with me one on one.
I hope you find a sense of calm and wonder on your wander!