I’ve been listening to the podcast Blossom Trees and Burnt-Out Cars (highly recommended).
While I was listening, chopping veggies for lunch, wiping the work surfaces, mixing up some masala spices, my mind’s eye travelled back to my childhood.
The presenter was talking about being out in nature as a child, playing out around the estate where she grew up, and how she didn’t really think of this as being “in nature”.
It made me think about my childhood and teenage years. I played out on the estate where we lived as a pre-teen, riding my bikes around the pathways and alleys, over the grassed areas and sometimes going down to the trees in Binney Lane (the only patch of woodland in our village on the Isle of Grain) and climbing trees. When we moved to Canterbury we would often be down at the river, climbing under the bridge or paddling and squeamishly afraid of the leeches. I didn’t connect those experiences particularly with nature, they were just what we did.
As a teenager I spent many days with friends out and about around the local countryside on our bikes, we would pedal for miles, me and Lisa and Jalea. They were older than me so I never felt worried or threatened. I would walk on my own up to the woods to wander there, again not really feeling I was “out in nature” just being.
It wasn’t until I was in my thirties with children of my own and going for walks with a well-heeled friend and their dogs that “going for a walk” became a thing. I can see how being a “nature person” particularly in England can sometimes be seen as an upper- and middle-class pursuit. For us the only way we could take part in these walks was because we now had a car, having not had one for the first decade of our family life. It isn’t possible to access a lot of wild places without a car, bus routes tend to link towns and villages, not isolated woodlands or heath. I can see, as the podcast explored, how for many people, getting some “green” can be a challenge.
In my early forties I came home to paganism. At the time I felt it was something new, but looking back I can see that I’ve always enjoyed the natural world, always been connected, I just had to remember that.
Even living in a second floor flat I’ve been able to maintain that sense of enjoyment, watching the magpies on the roofs of the garage blocks behind us, the changes in the stand of sweet chestnuts which hug the left-hand wall of our building, spying bats hunting at dusk outside our balcony, and nurturing flowers, herbs and veg in pots.
What are your earliest memories of nature? What is your story of life with the green world?