Recently, the only thing that has kept me grounded (besides books) is seeing some bonafide earthy ground and the things that come from it. I go for walks in the woods, sit on the beach, tend my plants, or enjoy the crazy drama that is bird watching. In exchange for things like picking up trash, growing some flowers, dropping birdseed, or literally nothing at all (mother earth is that generous), these outdoor outlets help to revive a little bit of my dampened spirits. However, while I am immensely grateful for currently being in this position, not everyone has the same level of access to the outdoors or the same inclination to be a part of it. But what can we do if we want to change that for ourselves? If we want to gain some of that nature-made comfort society tends to push aside? If we want to grow our knowledge and love of nature, but we're overwhelmed by the biological studies, environmental impact assessments, and honkin’ big words within the genre?
Well I find that budding interests are best helped along by some baby steps. Even when I was younger and privileged enough to have access to country living, camping, and the safety to wander outside, I still preferred the comforts of my bedroom to scouring the pond with my sisters. On that I have regrets, but my personal appreciation of nature actually started just a short while ago with -- great shocker -- books! No, I didn’t intentionally start reading the denser environmental material; I also didn’t randomly go to the library and grab a big essayists like Rachel Carson or John Muir. Instead, it was the settings of certain stories, and the significant roles that animals or plants played in the narratives I was already exposed to, that peaked my interest: a powerful forest, a peaceful pond, a helpful woodland animal, insect sounds, or the contents of the sky! With a helping of nature documentaries on the side, I began to learn about the varied representations of resilience, solace, community, beauty, and necessity to be found in the natural world, and about the more negative themes that could develop in its absence. I began to learn some of those big words, and see those ecosystems in my daily life. I began to broaden my horizons to those intimidating environmental studies sections.
So, when you’ve finished looking a little deeper into the books you already enjoy, here is a list of titles that I heartily recommend as follow-ups. I think of them as my happy medium books: neither too entrenched in scientific research, any one genre, place, or kind of writer, nor too tricky for spotting those nature themes. Plus, I feel some kindred spirits amongst these narratives...others that found solace or felt a bit more grounded within some kind of “nature”.
Please comment here or tag us on social media if you read any of these titles, you have other books with strong natural elements to recommend, or if you do any of your future reading in or near the outdoors (in a socially distanced manner). Above all, stay safe while you feed your curiosity, find comfort, and grow your knowledge. We hope to see you soon.