What I Now Know by Chelsea Guedes

Being Connected to Nature.

OK. But what does that really mean?

Nature, in its humblest form, is the physical or material world. It is the stuff out there – separate from our air conditioned homes and high speed Wi-Fi.

But is that all there is to it? Is nature merely the physical, tangible stuff that we see outside of us? When I was younger, I believed this to be true. For me, “going out into nature,” meant playing in the backyard or climbing a tree. I had a simple and vague understanding of the word.

I was an adventurous child –and remain one as an adult. I am often outside, hiking, running, or photographing (my passion so to speak). In short, saying that I like to be outside is an understatement.

But how connected have I really been to Nature?

Being here, in Costa Rica, has humbled me. I now realize that my connection with nature was ambiguous, and in a sense fragile. Nature, I have come to realize is the embodiment of strength, creativity and adaptability. I have been on several hikes and with each hike I learn

more about my place in Nature. I have even found a term, a concept, to explain my new found relationship: Biophilia.

The idea of Biophilia suggests that humans possess an inherent capacity to connect with nature. In the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, nature truly came to life. I had never encountered such beauty. The rain was not a nuisance; it added to the overall experience. We learnt about the biodiversity of plants and animals in this forest, but even more we learnt a lesson about the power of Nature—a story of regrowth, of regeneration. A story told silently over eons.

Speaking of silence, one of my most profound experience in Costa Rica was our silent hike. I hadn’t been on a hike where I wasn’t permitted to speak, but I’m glad it was an assignment. I will be the first to admit that more often than not I am hearing but not listening; I’m looking but fail to see. In “losing” my sense of speech, the others were heightened. I grew more aware of the variations in green and the abundance in birdcalls. My attention was spent on observation and therefore I was able to spot much more than I imagined.

No, I didn’t see a Puma, or a Margay, or even a Toucan. I did however see a Mot Mot, an Annandale’s Pigmy tree frog, some monkey’s and a Tarantula. What I’ve learned is some of these animals are easy to

spot if you know what to listen for or where to look. Observation, that’s the key. Once you truly observe, you will inevitably Connect.

The other day I put this to test and decided to take a solo hike. Relying solely on myself allowed me to focus on the things I want or, more importantly, need to get out of the hike. It forces me to pause, to put life at a halt and breath in everything around me. Anything seemingly “important” gets forgotten and my only concerns are what is directly in front of me. It is as if I am seeing it for the first time.

When I leave Costa Rica, I will have a new understanding of nature. One that goes beyond the physical, into the visceral and spiritual characteristics of my being.

And That is the real thing—the Connection to Nature—that I have been seeking.

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