Falling in love with Nature

Yosemite Falls Watercolor

Love of nature is the spring from which stewardship flows. In contrast, disconnection from nature leads to apathy in the face of all environmental problems. A useful way to define love is sustained, compassionate attention. Paying sincere attention to, and developing a rich curiosity about others helps us to be kind. This attention takes work and improves with practice. Whether with a child, partner, student, or stranger this practice changes who you are and your understanding of your relationship.

I feel this same change when I turn deep attention to nature. When I was working on my guide to the Sierra Nevada, I painted nearly 3000 watercolors of the plants and animals I encountered. I found that it felt wrong to pick a plant, draw it, and leave it wilting by the side of the trail. By the time I was done drawing, a relationship had been forged between me and the the plant. Instead of picking a plant, I would sit beside it, draw it to scale, add my watercolor, then stand up, and fluff up the grasses where I had been siting. Toward the end of the six years of this work I found myself talking to the plants as I painted them and thanking them and the place I found them before moving on. I was, falling in love again and again with each species I encountered. This love now motivates me to be a better steward of nature and to connect with conservation and restoration groups to protect and preserve wildness and biodiversity. This work is not a burden because it is watered by love.

The practice of journaling draws us into a deeper relationship with nature. The observation and gentle, directed attention of keeping a nature journal is love. As you develop your own practice, I encourage you to be open to this aspect of the process. Let yourself fall in love and be aware of how it changes and moves you. Use it to empower you to stewardship, education, or a richer and more passionate relationship with the world.