"We're already wild things at heart"

Jini Reddy, author of the inspirational Wild Times book writes for The Wild Network about finding your own energy and interest in nature, wherever that may be.

Children need role models and their caregivers are their first. But what if you’re a conscientious parent or a care-giver and keen for your offspring to enjoy some wild time – but you’re just not that into nature, or the whole wild thing has passed you by? What if it all feels a little bit alien or uncomfortable or too much effort? What if you are into nature, but don’t really know where to start? I would venture to say that this is perhaps because you’ve just not been exposed to nature in a way that reflects your interests, whatever they may be.

Though I was born in London, I grew up in Canada, first, briefly in the Laurentian mountains, where I picked berries in season and storm-watched obsessively, and later in a green Montreal suburb – the St. Lawrence river flowed past the end of my street and I lived close to a heron sanctuary. But had I been raised in an inner-city enclave, I’d still not have been divorced from nature – that’s simply impossible if you’ve lived through a raging Canadian winter.

How much of my empathy is down to geography?

I sometimes wonder, though, how much of my empathy for nature, the feeling of being a part of a sentient, living landscape and just caring is down to geography, and how much of it stems from my parents own relationship with nature: what I imbibed by osmosis.

My parents were immigrants, of Indian descent, who were born and raised in South Africa. My mother spent some of her childhood in the countryside. For her foraging, pit cooking, plucking ripe mangoes from trees and side-stepping poisonous snakes were second nature. The wild was her backyard and her everyday reality. And she knew a bit about natural, plant-based remedies – knowledge that was casually passed down by my grandmother.

My Dad was an academic but he, like my mum, loved to garden. The lush vegetable beds they nurtured are seared in memory. My room, where I studied, was upstairs and overlooked the garden. In spring and summer, it gave me the greatest feeling of stability and calm to hear them digging and hoeing and planting and discussing carrots and pumpkins, green beans and tomatoes as the breeze wafted in. There was a real peace in that. They never rowed when they gardened. In their quiet, unshowy way, they were at ease with nature and I believe that something of that communicated itself to me.

"It isn’t only about wildlife watching or being able to name every bird, plant and tree."

As parents, caregivers, fellow humans, we need to remind ourselves that engaging with nature isn’t only about wildlife watching or being able to name every bird, plant and tree. It is also about nourishing our more creative, reflective impulses: nature and art, nature and food, nature and the sacred, nature and healing.

We need to give ourselves permission to engage in diverse ways. We’re nature too – we’re already wild things at heart. We’re part of the community of species. We don’t have to emulate Ray Mears to validate that. When your child or the little one you’re caring for sees your eyes light up because you’re expressing your joy, your intimacy, your relationship – fledgling or otherwise – with nature in a way that makes sense to you, then chances are they will feel inspired to explore and honour their wild selves too.

 Jini Reddy is the author of Wild Times: Extraordinary Experiences connecting with Nature in Britain.

Bradt Travel Guides is offering The Wild Network community a special 20% discount on copies of Wild Times. To claim your discount, purchase the book at Bradt Guides online  and enter code WILD20 at checkout.   Offer valid until 31 December 2016.  

Find out more about Jini online, or follow her on Twitter.

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