So 30 Days Wild has been and gone and our household is a lot wilder for it (if you’ve not followed my previous posts then you can read more about 30 Days Wild here). It has been a fantastic experience although it has also taught me some important things:
1) We were not quite as wild as I had imagined.
I thought that we were already fairly wild, what with all that time spent walking and our love of the natural world. Taking the time to interact with nature every single day, even in a small way, took more thought and consideration than I had expected though. It turned out this was not a habit we were used to. It took a while to realise the obvious – that regular nature interactions really don’t need to be big or organised.
Which leads me to…
2) You don’t need a wild time schedule.
Put away those nature activity books and the educational itinerary for your next trip out to the wildlife reserve. Sure, it’s great to dedicate a few hours once a week to a country walk or poking about in the local park or to plan a structured activity or outing. It is not necessary though.
Being wild does not require an ‘all or nothing’ approach or hours of planning. Much of the joy of being outside in nature is its sheer spontaneity. From the weather to the animals, landscapes and plants you encounter, nothing is ever quite the same or as you expected. The natural environment is one of the few refuges left where we can be free from the rigid rules and timetables that govern every aspect of our lives.
This took a bit of thought to begin with – I’m a great planner and researcher so tend to go for big projects. By the end of the month enjoying nature had become, well, second nature. The big projects scaled back and we increasingly just took time to enjoy the small every day nature interactions.. Our favourite example of this was probably checking out the wildlife cameras every morning to see if the hedgehogs, fox or perhaps nothing had visited the night before.
Nor do you have to spend hours hiding in bushes, whispering a la Simon King (love him by the way) or reeling off the latin name of every wildflower you pass to appreciate nature. Walking to the car and taking time to smell a flower or taking a few minutes to inspect that verge or bush at the end of the garden more closely are all ways to squeeze in some nature time into even the busiest day. Who’s to say that your experience of nature is any the less rich for the lack of camouflage clothing? Anyone can enjoy being outdoors at whatever level they want. This is nature. Human rules & conformity are irrelevant.
3) Nature can be found in the most unexpected places.
Remember that advice to always look up when walking through a town and take in the history, architecture and skyline about you. Well, look about you, look up and look down during your daily life and take in just how many other non-human lives are busy living right alongside us.
Flowers growing on a rooftop, an ant’s nest in amongst a paved area next to Millenium Bridge in London, the clouds floating above us every day, that spider that you throw out the bathtub at least twice a week… all of these are nature encounters we had during our 30 Days Wild Challenge. All perfectly ordinary and yet how often do we stop to really take in these everyday sights? How often do we question whether we know much about the plant, phenomena or creature concerned, about what, why and how it is doing what it is doing? Not very often in my case I discovered. We take so much for granted as we whizz by on the business of daily life yet taking in the little things around us can enrich our lives in so many ways.
4) Children are brilliant at showing up your knowledge.
Point 3 above was highlighted that much more by having both Roo and Beth on the case with me. Their fresh eyes rediscovered experiences that have become mundane for us ‘grown-ups’. For them checking out the colours of a daisy or examining a beetle were experiences new and full of wonder and it was a joy to rediscover some of nature’s simple joys with them.
It also though highlighted just how much I have forgotten or took for granted that I knew. With Roo’s incessant ‘why’s I often found myself struggling to explain properly or to correctly identify something for her from the natural world. This in turn made me curious to fill in the new found gaps in my knowledge as well as avoid future humiliation from my three year old who is rapidly becoming more knowledgeable about nature than I am.
5) Nature is calming.
When we spend time in nature and when we focus our minds on a specific detail of something it quietens all the other noise going on in our brains. There is scientific evidence to back this up and it is no coincidence that green is a colour regularly used to calm, reassure and aid concentration.
Scientific studies aside, the 30 Days Wild Challenge reaffirmed this for me personally. Being outside for the children in particular noticeably calmed things down and evened out their moods. If you need an instant cure for a crying baby or a tantrum-ridden toddler then try it – it’s like a kind of magic. It works for adults too. I’ve long found that a quick potter round the garden or wander in the fields makes my worries or problems seem less significant or at the very least puts me in a more optimistic mood towards working on them. What’s more, all that activity out in the fresh air makes you sleep like a log!
6) Nature fosters creativity.
Wordsworth knew it and so do we. Once again, science has lots to say on this but who needs science when you can see it with your own eyes? The girls were already quite used to what to ‘do’ when outside without toys. It still amazes me though the amount of time a child can spend just ambling about outside. Of course it takes a bit of time for kids to adjust who are ‘new’ to nature but as time goes on the den making, bug hunting, tree climbing and exploring begins. For us, I noticed how Beth at just 16 months, became increasingly engaged and independent during her outdoor adventures. It was lovely to watch even if she has now discovered our raspberry bushes as a result… As an adult, I found these time the most inspiring for post ideas or working out my day. We also came away with loads of nature craft ideas which we will be sharing over the coming months.
7) Nature is for life and not just for challenges:
Ok, so that saying really doesn’t translate that well from puppies to 30 Days Wild but you get the idea. Never has engaging with nature been so important and it’s not just the kids we need to worry about. How are we supposed to expect them to engage with the wild world, tackle things like climate change and animal extinction if we are tuned out ourselves? If I’ve learnt anything from this experience it is to start practicing even more what I preach. Those bird tapes are out again, I’m learning more plant names every day and if we fail on everything else I make sure to shoo myself and the kids round the garden at least once before bed every day. As a family we intend to #StayWild – the enduring message of the 30 Days Wild Challenge.
8) Squeezing all those extra blog posts into my day was the biggest challenge of all (and I failed).
I blame it on all that extra time spent out enjoying nature… No, seriously, the biggest challenge for me of the 30 Days Wild Challenge was writing up our experiences. I managed passably well to the midway point. After that our holiday to the Isles of Scilly came in and my writing time went up the creek. In my defense, we spent almost every waking hour outside on our Isles of Scilly trip and were so exhausted in the evenings we didn’t go to bed long after the girls. It was a fitting place to complete our challenge and I’ll be making up for those missed posts with a summary of what we got up to every day on our 30 Days Wild Challenge very soon.