Gratitude is the antidote to struggle and fear. Fear puts the brain into fight, flight, or freeze mode. When I am grateful, I feel like I am more in right, might, and be mode. By right, I mean accepting of myself and what is happening. By might, I mean recognizing my gifts and feeling the courage to move despite what’s missing or lacking. By be, I simply mean being present.
I’ve been longing to write a nature art gratitude practice for a while and this seems like an appropriate time. Many are struggling. At the same time, I hear greater appreciation for what is right in front of us; what we already have. And nature is here with us no matter how much we struggle. This is how I find gratitude in nature.
Be Grateful in Nature
Nature art gives me a deep sense of gratefulness. It’s relaxing (when I let go of perfection). It helps me notice and accept the here and now because I can only use the materials available to me in the area. When I see the beauty in what comes, it gives me the courage to do more. When I share and people engage, the gratitude multiplies.
I started this practice after participating in a webinar through the Canadian Ecopsychology Network with Trebbe Johnson, author of Radical Joy for Hard Times. Johnson speaks and writes with a focus on places that have been damaged, like former mines, for example, and suggests there is beauty even in these places.
“So to see a place as orphaned or wounded is also to reexamine the meaning of living and dying and to allow some curiosity and even a sense of marvel to emerge about the tactics things employ to preserve.” Pg. 62 of Radical Joy for Hard Times
There aren’t many places that haven’t been wounded in some way by humans. So why not practice gratitude wherever we go?
Explore Nature’s Canvas
So many with whom I share my art tell me how creative I am and that they couldn’t do it. I argue that anyone can. This isn’t a competition, rather about being present, clearing the mind of chatter, and noticing what is available. I work to engage all of my senses when I practice. My eyes are closed to better listen, smell, and sometimes taste the air (or when I’m lucky, to eat berries in the fall). “What is it you want me to see today?” is spoken out loud. And then I am patient to see what shows up. I do my best not to decide what I am using until I am inspired.
While creating the art above, I noticed the birds seemingly singing louder than I’ve heard them before these spring days. I heard a pheasant rooster in the grass down the lane. The birds seemed limited this winter, so I was especially grateful to hear the beautiful singing. The moss really caught my eye as a medium to build upon; perhaps because the smell attracted me.
I do tend to work in circles which probably reflects my personality of not wanting to be stuck in a box. I also love that it represents the space and is temporary; left behind to absorb back into the cycle of life. Each piece of art reminds me of a place and time that is special.
The first time I tried, I caught myself in perfectionist mode and had to remind myself that it was about gratefulness. I tried a few arrangements and liked some others better. I am posting this one as the actual first try and it is still very beautiful. This, and several others, were created at El Rancho Campground and stables where my family and I have camped for more than 10 years. The campground is 1200 acres of wonderful woods, ponds, prairie and a beautiful lake. This place is my escape – my place of peace.
Most consider dandelions a weed. As long as the lawn is green, I don’t particularly care what’s in it. Yellow is my favorite color and the dandelion represents my favorite shade, so it made sense to turn them into art. I don’t plan out what I’m going to create – the spiral just happened. I remember being a little unfocused at work and really grateful for the sun and warmer temperatures. This practice helped ground me, helped me appreciate the warm spring weather and got the creative juices flowing again. I also realized how grateful I am to live out in the country where I have access to a great space to play every day.
This piece was created to express my gratitude for an amazing experience as a peer coach for the National Conservation Leadership Institute. While I was pushing the cohort to be better, I was stretched as well. I wrote more about the experience in blog post here. I stopped at Carver Park Reserve, one of my favorite parks in Minnesota. It was an amazing fall day so I spent a couple of hours just walking around soaking in the beauty and collecting a variety of falling leaves. When I found Chickadee Hill, I knew that was the location to leave this piece (Chickadee is my favorite bird). The vibrancy of this piece just fills me with so much joy.
When the campground closes for the season, I try to squeeze every last moment out of it. It means winter is on its way again. After I got done closing up the RV, I hit one of the most beautiful spots on the campground that I had recently discovered while hiking. Another great summer was in the books and I am so grateful for this amazing place and my awesome camp neighbors.
This was the first year in a while that I didn’t have a good photo of my family for my annual Christmas card. Both of my kids were off at college and that could have made me sad. However, they are prospering and both in schools that seem to be perfect fits for their interests and personalities. So I couldn’t be more proud of them and grateful that they have found their passions. This gratefulness I felt led to this piece, which got the honor of representing us on our annual Christmas card.
Winter can be depressing with low sun and cold temperatures that keep us inside. I only started snowshoeing last year and I can’t believe how much I enjoy the activity. It keeps me sane during our long winters. I enjoy being able to hike around the farm whenever there is a new coat of snow. I was able to gather enough material not yet snow-covered from a small wetland area on the property. This piece expresses the gratitude for winter white snow and my newfound love of snowshoeing.
Here are some tips on how you can try this gratitude practice for yourself:
√ Pause and ask the space for permission. It helps set an intention, even if it feels uncomfortable to do at first.
√ Let the space inspire you. Wait and see what attracts you for materials and what shapes come to mind.
√ Do a senses scan for inspiration; what do you smell, taste (the air, if you don’t know what’s edible), hear, touch, and see?
√ Practice GEMO (good enough, move on). You are not competing against anyone. Just relax and do it.
√ Use material that is common in the area and does not damage anything.
√ Study the plants in your area to avoid anything harmful.
√ Leave it behind. Don’t aid in the spread of any invasive species.
√ Before you leave, offer a word (spoken or silent) of thanks to the space for inspiring you.
Please do snap a photo and share it and your story with me. I may feature your picture in a future blog. Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find Anavah Consulting on Facebook.
#gratitude #natureartstory #radjoy #anavah #responsiblerecreation