For many of us, childhood was spent out in nature. As little kids we didn’t have to be told we were a part of the environment, we just knew that we were. It was our world and we were part of it. The environment was there to be explored in ways that contemporary parents would probably find hair-raising. Our mums kicked us out the door at the first opportunity and from there it was on to exploring the bush and the parks, or even the garden if we were lucky enough to have one interesting enough to provide hiding places and cubby holes. We gathered twigs and sticks to make forts, we climbed trees, bounced through mounds of lomandra (the sharp kind) and generally roamed through our habitat with a sense of fun and belonging that no computer game or tablet app can produce today. I learnt how to jump over an ant nest without ending up with pants full of irate nippers, I knew that if you crushed the leaves of the gum tree planted in my granny’s garden it smelled of lemons and that you really could grow an oak tree from an acorn because that is just what she had done. I knew to avoid walking under the tree with the magpie nest in it and that occasionally, tiny bats could be found hiding in the curls of bark on a particular tree.
Most of the ageing nature nuts I know now shared similar experiences as children and still love to get out and about in their special places. We just wear more sensible clothing and often carry expensive cameras and binoculars instead of sharpened sticks. And if there is a silver lining to the last six months of rolling disasters, it seems to be that more of us are getting out into our natural habitat and exploring it, or at the very least enjoying seeing something more inspiring than four walls and a screen. Now is the perfect time to reflect on the environment and how we experience it. We are, after all, creatures of it. Without it there is no us.
As a kid my special place was simply the bush that surrounded my home. It provided me with endless excitement and possibilities, not to mention solitude when I needed to just be alone. Not much has changed. A walk long Ginninderra Creek watching the ducks surf a mini rapid, the discovery of a type of fungi I have never seen before, the sight of a cloud of small birds, finding an interesting moth on my window sill or the final flowering of a new plant in my garden all make me feel like I am where I am meant to be. I am in my right place and happy to be part of something much bigger than myself. How about you?