“For the mind disturbed, the still beauty of dawn is nature’s finest balm.” – Edwin Way Teale
I rise at dawn. The familiar sound of kookaburras hysterically laughing fills the fresh spring air. The dragonflies buzz only inches above the vast river flowing before my eyes. They come to a standstill and hover for a brief moment. It is as if they wish to recalculate their bearings, similar to what I am doing. With the constant hustle and bustle of city dwelling, we can sometimes forget the importance of slowing down and embracing the natural world and for all its worth.
The campsite is a conservation site and to my luck, there is no-one else here. When I drove in, I taxied like an aeroplane on the tarmac, idling slowly to decide where to call home for the next few nights. The runway ended at a peninsula where the land stretched out into the river and an inlet formed behind. Perfect. Two nights and one whole day of no phone coverage, just me, my books, my yoga mat and the wildlife. Recently, I have been reading about the importance of reconnecting with nature and how it can impact both our physical and mental health. There is with good reason that doctors around the world have started to prescribe nature as a medication. It is madness to assume our technologies and reactive medicines can promote a healthy life when after all, we evolved from nature, we are nature.
I start my day with my very amateur yoga, I am wearing a mesh covering over a hat to stop the flies, welcome to Australia. I can feel the urge for a phone connection, to check my socials and read the news. I believe this is something many of us that grew up with the constant psychological attack of the highly addictive social media face. I hope with the recent research highlighting the detrimental impacts of social media and constant screentime that we can promote healthier behaviours, before the very structures of brains change forever. Neurologists have highlighted the impact that these vices are having, we face higher inflammation and activity of the amygdala which can have detrimental impacts on our wellbeing, leaving us in a state of anxiety, depression and disconnection from reality. With the CEOs of these highly addictive social media platforms not allowing their own children to use their products, that speaks enough volumes itself.
I acknowledge my desire to check my socials, I reflect upon it and then I move on. The beauty of not having phone reception makes this process much easier. I remove the kayak from the roof of the car and place it on the bed of the river. As I do this, two water skinks climb down from the towering eucalyptus tree and run past my feet as the sunshine sparkles off their jet black skin. I enter the water and begin paddling toward the inlet where there is thick tree cover growing over the river. I cannot help but think about my deadlines and commitments that perpetually hover above my thoughts. So I decide to practice another new skill I am working for my mindfulness: meditation. There is no denying that in a world that promotes shouting to be heard, beauty to be seen and excellence to be considered that our brains struggle to achieve silence. I dock the kayak within some reeds and I begin to meditate.
I return from meditation with clarity and in a relaxed state. I continue to paddle alongside the swallows as they dive from the safety of the understory to catch their juicy bug breakfast. Sunshine is pushing through the trees as different fish species jump out of the water to snatch their breakfast too. I think about how the river must have looked when there was only Indigenous stewardship of the waters rather than the damns and invasive bottom feeders that now occupy the river today. I imagine the water to be crystal clear rather than the turbid light brown waters I am paddling above. I feel a sense of disappointment and angst but as my favourite author always reminds me, history shows us that change is constant, inevitable and possible. I change my perspective to feel hopeful about the potential of one day being able to see the river in full health like those Indigenous communities showed was possible for thousands of years whilst still using it for their survival. Ecoanxiety is something many of us who care for the planet see and suffer from almost on a daily basis. I find the cure is empowerment through actions as well as knowing the resilience that nature shows us time and time again. Only 60 years ago, humpback whales were as low as 5,000 individuals but with the implementation of adequate global policies and protections, population numbers have soared to as many as 80,000 today.
I return to my campsite and place my camping chair on the very point of the peninsula. I open my book and start reading. I stop and cannot help but lookup. I see the trees brushing upon the edge of the water, I see the pelicans flying at rapid speed just above the slow-flowing water, I see those same water skinks running about eating ants... I see nature. I begin to feel more optimistic about the future. I just know that if more people felt the feeling that I am feeling right now there would be considerable urgency in the much-needed healing of our planet.
“Nature mends broken hearts, cluttered minds, and troubled souls.” – Ōrphic Flux