How well do you know the place you live in? Do you know what lives around you, what grows? Being connected to where you live, where you are planted, can make a huge difference in your mental health, your awareness and presentness in your life, and your understanding of the world you live in.
- Pay Attention
Most of us go through life without noticing what’s around us. On auto-pilot if you will. We have seen where we live every day, so assume we know it and don’t pay attention to what is around us.Taking a few minutes a day, or pausing for a few minutes as you’re coming and going, and just looking around to see what’s there can make a big difference in knowing the place you live, being more connected to the things and people around you, and helping to lower stress.
- Ask Questions
Our assumptions are one of the biggest things that keep us from understanding, relating to, and connecting with the world around us. Unless you question your assumptions, they blind you to certain things and keep you from seeing. People tend to see what they expect to see.The first place to start asking questions is with yourself. Start asking yourself questions that challenge your assumptions and force you to think about and consider the world around you. Start simple. You’re not trying to dig into the depths of philosophy, you’re wanting to understand dirt and rock and plants and animals and people.Some sample questions include:1) Why is that thing there?
2) Why is that doing what it’s doing?
3) What am I not seeing?
4) What do I see if I look closer at that?
5) What can I see around me?
6) What can’t I see around me?
7) What can I hear around me?
8) What can’t I hear around me?
9) What does the air smell like?
10) What direction is the wind coming from?
11) Where is the sun?
12) Where is the moon?
Think along those type of lines. And ask yourself, what questions can I ask myself that I’m not asking? And keep in mind that it’s okay for an answer to be, I don’t know. Remember those questions.
Asking questions of others is important as well. Ask people you see every day how their day is going. Ask people who seem familiar with something you don’t know much about questions concerning that. Go to a nearby library and ask if they have maps of the area or books about local history, local plants and wildlife, or other topics that might help you know more about where you live. Ask at local grocery stores where certain fresh foods were raised or grown.
The more questions you ask, both of yourself and others, the more you will learn and understand and connect, and the better you will be at asking the right question.
- Think Local
Part of the disconnect we often feel with the world around and with the best place we’re planted stems from the way we shop, eat, and get what we need.While older times weren’t always good and had their own problems, in a world before our global economy, online shopping, and mass shipping, most everything people bought or traded for was local, especially the daily, mundane things. When you grow or know the person who grew the vegetables you cooked with, raise or know the person who raised the meat you ate, and make or know the person who made your clothes, there is a strong connection to where you live. You are part of it.The world has of course changed. But you don’t have to grow, raise, or make everything yourself, or buy everything you use from your neighbours. Making small changes in how you shop and what you use can both help you to be more connected and help support those around you who do grow, raise, or make things you can use.Think small. Think simple. Think about what you use on a daily basis, what you use the most.
Do you buy and use milk, cream, cheese, or other dairy products? If you look, you might find a local dairy. Sometimes independent or small grocery stores will stock products from them, sometimes local dairies have delivery services, and sometimes you can go directly to them and buy things. Even in cities, there are sometimes dairies where you least expect.
Do you buy and eat meat or vegetables? Many places have farmer’s markets, special festivals, street markets, or the like where you can buy fresh meat, vegetables, fruit, mushrooms, herbs, all types of things, directly from those that raise or grow them. Like with dairy, small, local, or independent groceries stores or food coops sometimes use local producers. Some farms have shares where you help fund the farm, get a certain amount of product periodically, and can purchase at a discount. Some of these will delivery the vegetables or meat directly to your door. Local butchers sometimes sell meat raised locally. If you have a large freezer, some farms and ranches sell meat by the whole, half, or quarter animal, where a butch cuts it up for you and you get all the meat.
Do you buy gifts for people? Look for local art or craft stores that sell items made locally. Look for items sold in restaurants or other local businesses made by locals and sold as a service to the community or for a cut in the sales. Look for local craft fairs and festivals where local artisans or businesses sell their wares.
Do you drink alcohol? There might be micro breweries, meaderies, vineyards, or stills that you can get certain types from or buy through local liquor stores.
Do you use honey? Find a local bee farm or honey producer. Bees use local pollen so local honey can help with lowering how bad allergies are. And if you know where it’s from, you know it’s real honey, not formulated processed sugar as many store bought brands are.
One thing I have done in the past is gone to a farmer’s market or local grocery store, picked out a piece of meat raised locally, then figured out a meal using as much local items as I can. You don’t have to do this all the time, but doing so on occasion helps make you think about where your food comes from and what’s grown locally.
- Grow Something
There’s nothing that connects you to where you’re planted like getting your hands dirty.Small farming and gardening are not as common as they used to be. When you rely on crops to make it through the year, or your garden to eat, of course you’re going to be intimately familiar with the makeup of the soil, the patterns of the weather, when cold weather and hot weather come, the winds that bring storms, your sources of water. The more you rely on what you grow, the more attention you pay to what is around you. In an agriculture society, by necessity, you are more connected to the land, and this is true if you’re a farmer who sells crops or a gardener growing enough to feed their family.For many, even a garden is impossible. You need garden space, and living in an apartment or renting a place where you can’t dig up a yard, this just isn’t an option, at least not in traditional senses.You might not be able to grow a whole garden, but growing things, planting things where you are planted, can greatly help you connect to the world around you.
Even in a city or urban environment, there are approaches that are an option.
You don’t have to grow three rows of corn and six mounds of potatoes. Start small. Many grocery stores and department stores sell herbs and small plants to plant and grow, and seeds for those who do garden. One small pot on a balcony or porch, in a window sill, on front steps, on a roof top, can grow a collection of spices to cook with, or vegetables for a snack. You don’t have to grow a lot. You also don’t have to grow food plants. Flowers and house plants can very much help you connect to the land.
Expand as you can.
There’s no need to rush things. And no need to do more than you can. Expand as your time, resources, and space allows. The more you grow yourself, the more connected you will likely feel, and the more important the world around you will become, but even small moves in that direction will help.
If you have the space, you can expand what you grow. There are a lot of resources online and in books for container gardening, and you can do a lot in a small space if you work at it.
Remember that growing your own food is rewarding but hard work, and the more you grow, the more work it is. While that is part of the point, if you out reach your ability to care for and raise the plants, this can be discouraging, and keep you from continuing. Start small, proceed slowly, and only expand as you can.
Some neighbourhoods and communities have community gardens or other places where you either can garden communally or get a small plot of land to grow your own plants, whether food plants or flowers. Look around or ask around. This could be an option if you want to get into the dirt and really get your hands dirty.
- Get Involved
Small things can make a world of difference.Many people think to change the world that they need to focus on how much carbon they are causing to be burnt, how much paper they are using, donating to save the rainforest, or any number of other things. But while these are good to consider, and do sometimes help some, do these things actually help you connect to the world around you? To someone on the edge of the rainforest in Brazil, stopping the cutting of rainforest might, but for a fast food worker in New York City, not so much.Consider instead, or better, in addition, what you can do for the place you live in. It’s easy to give money to someone else to act on your behalf or to make changes in your daily life that help in some intangible way that, which a good thing, is impossible to see the results of. It’s also easy to blog or reshare posts to raise awareness. But it’s an entirely different thing to make a visible difference in the place you live.One easy way is to pick up trash. It doesn’t take much if you go for a walk or hike to stick a small garbage bag or grocery bag in your pocket, purse, or bad. Also, in many parks, parking lots, and even in downtowns in cities, you will find garbage cans placed around. Picking up a few small things won’t just diminish the litter around you, it will help you to tangibly connect to the action you are doing and connect with the land around you. Be careful, of course. Anything that might be dangerous to yourself, it’s better to report than handle yourself.
Another way is to volunteer for somewhere local that’s making a difference.
For example, in Boulder, Colorado, there’s the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center. Contacting them, telling them what you’d like to get involved with, and being willing to volunteer your time, they can either get you involved in something or direct you to somewhere to get involved. There are many organizations of this type, even if not as involved, that can do similar in many places. A bit of research can direct you to such.
Also, many churches and local organizations have groups focussed on fighting human trafficking, local environmental threats, civil rights violations, or beautifying the community. And many counties and cities and towns have programs where you can volunteer to make a tangible difference with your own hands.
There is something about doing something yourself that no amount of donating or educating people can ever do.
While we tend to not be as connected to the land and things around us as we once were, we can get closer and more connected. It is very possible to balance the good things of a modern technology filled life with the good things of having a connection with the land around us. The main thing it to get out and do it. To open our own eyes and wake up.