I’ve spent some time today with 2 elements I absolutely love – the sea and soil – both things that involve me spending time outside. The weather has been a wonderfully fresh (so bright sunshine, supported with a biting easterly wind) and once the wind dropped away, the sun’s warmth was a welcome friend.
There is lots of research around the healing / calming benefits of spending time in nature. The Japanese consider forest bathing a key element to maintaining good health. I believe that it has been proven that even looking at pictures of greenery will lift a mood. From my own point of view I find spending time, immersed in both the sea and soil, utterly wonderful.
Firstly the sea – getting into cold water, under a blue sky strips everything else away. I’m fortunate in not having much to worry about, so I see sea bathing more as a luxury, a self indulgence and something that is valuable from a preventative health point of view. Getting in the water today I slowed my breath, extended my exhale and dropped into a calmer, more present mental space. The cold driving any other thoughts out of your mind, it centred me in the moment. I felt alive, healthy and invigorated. Going in with Jenny adds to the experience as you know you have someone to share this sense of exhilaration with. Alongside which it makes it quite funny when there are 2 of you bobbing in the sea, watching people walk past, heavily dressed to keep the cold at bay. 3 minutes passed, which was enough for us both and we gradually stepped out to stroll home. The freshness I feel on getting out is pretty much unrivalled by anything else I do. The sense of achievement at calming your body & mind enough to walk into winter sea warming and fulfilling. The cold briefly tries to stress you, relax with it and it has the completely opposite effect. Counter intuitive, however incredibly powerful.
Next soil. We’ve got a big and long term job in shifting our new garden from what it is, to what it can be. It has a good base, that has been neglected allowing more aggressive weeds to stifle the beauty that is hiding (I have discovered so many lovely flowering plants, that have had their growth stunted through a lack of light or soil nutrition being gobbled by weeds). However this for me is a great challenge. I utterly love working with soil. I’ve found that gardening is one of the 2 things (making art the other) that almost instantly drops me into a flow state. Time stands still as I just turn, rake, unearth, lift, plant, dig, fork, etc pretty much until either I am spent or it is dark. I’ve hurt my back on too many occasions now, so I set an alarm for every 30 mins, forcing me to have a break, sit, rest and then carry on. Invariably it goes off and I am lost in the middle of something that I want to continue – I know better now and do have a brief break. There is something incredibly grounding about having soil, good well-loved soil, in your hands. Worms turning it over, organic matter replenishing its goodness. Everything comes from the ground and ultimately that’s where we end up. Today was prepping what will be a soft fruit bed which we had cleared around a month ago. It’s been sat there, waiting for the roots of weeds to be dug out, then spread with manure and compost to feed for the next few months before fruit is planted. I moved a lemon tree from a spot the new front door was going, pruning the lower branches and hoping it would survive the trauma of moving. Jen & I dug, forked, and spread goodness. Come 5 this evening it looks completely changed, refreshed, revitalised. Us – spent, physically done from the sea and working the soil, but mentally calm, satisfied and at peace. I can still feel a slight roughness on my hands from working the earth – a single wash unable to change the texture of my skin. I’m excited for what it brings us in the future. Some success and some failure, nature being unpredictable – a great teacher in embracing failure and learning what to change / to differently next time.
And I suppose that is something else both the sea and the soil teach me, they offer health, respite. Resistance to either is utterly pointless. The sea is cold at this time of year and nature will grow what it sees fit based on so many different inputs. Resilience, bending and embracing these elements leads to acceptance and growth – something that taken into day to day life a powerful coping mechanism.