We walked the shoreline. On the edge of this island. Stopping to pick and skim, pebbles and stones; rocks and shells. To throw and drop into pockets. Dipping hands into rockpools, water rising up to meet our fingertips. Cold and clear, webbed and weedy. Smooth to touch and shiny-wet. Wondering how often we (as a collective kind) have been drawn to the sea. How often have we felt the rightness – the coming-homeness – of plunging our hands below the surface. How long ago was this notion work-a-day; not so remarkable or out of the ordinary. But maybe an unblinking part of the every day?
With each ripple and wave and hearty-thrown-rock-plop, I think of the reading I did at university. About the health benefits seen in green spaces; how offices with a natural view see lower stress levels and better productivity; hospitals will have a quicker recovery rate. The list goes on. Throughout history in fact, there’s been moments where we (as a collective kind) have made a conscious effort to spend more time outdoors in green spaces. Post-industrial revolution, when the UK experienced a huge migratory shift from the country to the city. After the horrors of trench life in the first world war. Also during the 1970’s, environmental movements were on the rise, as exhibited in cultural markers like Small is Beautiful and The Simple Life. And now I’m someone who finds themselves hashtagging #SlowLiving on Instagram. Accepting that online it’s probably an aesthetic as much as it’s a set of ethics. But with increasing awareness of climate change, a growing acceptance that capitalism largely isn’t working and with many expressing a desire for a quieter and simpler life – perhaps another wave of environmental awareness is arriving.
Still I wonder would I feel less nature-disconnect if I didn’t live within four walls? Or in relation to so many screens? Is it the fresh air that is so tangibly refreshing and uplifting to me? Or is it actually something greater? Something more along the lines of connectivity, community and collective energy. We have so few words in our language (particularly words that don’t make us cringe) that accurately describe feelings relating to what is unseen – our psyche, emotions and spirit. We are perhaps the first modern, scientific, secular civilisation built primarily around the individual. As a society we have no real, widely accepted notion of God or mainstream religious or spiritual idea. We are perhaps the first civilisation to exist without something sublime or transcendent at its centre. Something bigger than the sum of our parts. And so I wonder, are we also drawn to these spaces because they feel so innately grand and boundless. So obviously bigger than us and beyond our brief time frames. So beautiful in their design and also, like all natural things, perhaps marked with some subtle divine signature.