As I have made small, meaningful changes towards spending more time outdoors, eating food that my great great grandmother would recognize, re-wilding myself in tiny one-night camping trips and attending harvest potlucks to nurture the next steps towards intentional community, I've wondered how much of my energy should continue to go towards growing plants indoors.
I've noticed an imagined judgement, a slight undercurrent, of superiority sent my way from YouTube superstars that are living a more "natural" lifestyle. This little message seemed suggested in the pages of permaculture books that look at zones as the areas right around your house, instead of inside of it. I imagine this is leaving millions of apartment-locked citizens with a feeling of inferiority and even despair that they don't have what they should have to do what they should be doing to do right by the planet. This sense that outdoors is better than indoors. That you have to leave your comfort zone, to do "the right thing". Or go to Mars. Let's save that discussion for later.
I have experienced, first hand, tremendous life changes for myself by forcing past my comfort zone, but don't worry, this isn't one of those posts where you are pushed to change yourself in some way.
This has been modus operandi for me. I was always pushing, striving, trying to be better, get better. Make big, fast, effortful changes in my life! That's been the dominant message to me and the one I've followed for a long time now. As I write these words, I feel the fatigue of emphasizing that so often. I wonder what small, slow, soft acceptance of right now would feel like.
I want to be clear here as well, that I still believe in pushing myself, what I'm finding though, is that its not the one answer to every problem in my life.
As I write this, I'm sick. I have had an attack of really severe allergies, among other things, that have weakened my body and have made going outdoors a physically painful experience. On top of the physical pain, there is a little emotional cloud hanging above me as well. I can't exercise, I can't go outside, I can't do many of things that bring me joy. There is also this big swelling of empathy and compassion, as I imagine those who are disabled, the elderly, the depressed, who all may very well need more connection to nature, but can't find the way to it without creating a lot of pain to get there.
And I've also been having a dream...
I've had this dream of a "garden of eden" in my living room. The air is filled with the fragrance of herbs, orchids in bloom and the odd smell of tomato foliage mixing together to form the fragrance of a whole, living garden. There are fish in the fish tank swimming with the duty to produce doody for the plants growing, there is color everywhere you turn, the sound of water flowing and a gentle breeze moving through trays of microgreens. There is a garden bed on wheels with red wiggler worms hidden deep in the soil creating a mini living ecosystem from which the plants grow. There is a praying mantis roaming the plants, in hopes of finding a "pest" or two and carnivorous plants flourishing among little moisture clouds formed by mini mist makers hidden among the foliage.
I've wondered why this dream persists for me...this dream of a magazine-cover-worthy living room... that moves as close as possible to the experience of living in a tropical island garden...why is this dream still one I want to move towards?
One possible reason: I'm finding that my limitations (not having a backyard, etc) make the outdoors a place I have to "visit". Its as if I married someone (a commitment to live more naturally) but we never moved in together.
So this living room (and balcony once I'm feeling better) is this middle place. To nurture my relationship with nature and to move nature into my home and heart. There has been practical wisdom in doing this as well that actually enhances all of my outdoor efforts in ways I hadn't imagined, but that is a topic for another day.
Its in this middle place, where the lines between the indoors and outdoors blur more and more, that I can care for my health, my movement and joie de vivre so that my relationship with nature is the most intimate I can make it. It is also, in this "safe" space, that I can nurture what I'll call "Nature Eroticism" the visceral, very real (although let me emphasize that its not a sexual) pleasure that nature gives you in abundance, that makes living worth while. Many of us have mostly forgotten our innate pleasure of interacting with nature, and yet I'm not in a rush to fix this. I'm more interested in stirring your desire for it.
If I am to completely accept myself, this world and this moment exactly as it is, while taking the most gentle step forward towards who I am going to evolve into, this is where I have the most agency at this moment: in my living room.
I'm choosing to embrace my limitations in this moment. The outdoors feels like a closed door right now. I can push and force myself to be outdoors, knowing that there is a piece of my soul out there that I long for and deeply miss...or I can look for the key, to open the door. It takes longer, but then when I do go outdoors again, it will be from a place of pure pleasure and desire, not pain and grim determination...which oddly enough is my comfort zone. Is working within your physical comfort zone, out of your psychological comfort zone? Interesting.
Pleasure here, is key. Because I what I want to nurture, in myself, is my relationship to nature, a natural unfolding of a path home, in the woods, my living room garden, whatever that ends up looking like. When it is a pleasure to be with someone, a relationship more easily unfolds.
If I want a deep sense of belonging in this natural world, yet I imagine sickness and other obstacles as an insurmountable mountain of struggle, then I may just need to start very, very, easy, very very small...like growing one thing in my living room I can eat, with a focus on pleasure from seed to plate to taste buds (happy to say that's a regular thing for me now!).
I've made an interesting observation the last few days with my various aches and pains. As I've done some somatic education work, which focuses on noticing sensations going on in your body that you have become used to ignoring, I've had an "aha!" moment: sensitizing yourself to pleasure (in my case the plants around me and moving in ways that feel good) gives you more breathing room around whatever pain is present, so you can include and transcend your pain. Feeling what feels good helps you not have all of your attention consumed by your suffering. It leaves space for flowers.
As I write with sickness, which often feels like a foggy, drunken stupor for me, I'm enjoying this other way of moving towards what I long for. And also makes me more willing to create incomplete sentences. To move towards a dream in the slowest, gentlest, softest way, so that every step is a pleasure and I can nurture relationships, to others, to myself, to who I am now, to who I long to be and towards a fuller, more vivid way of being in the world.
Question: What is one of the most sensory-pleasurable experiences you have ever had in nature?