Nearby Nature – January 2015

The start of a New Year seems an ideal time to start a new blogging habit. So for 2015 I’m adding a new monthly blog post to the mix. The inspiration for this new series is a recently published paper titled One thousand good things in nature: Aspects of nearby nature associated with improved connection to nature (view pdf here) by Miles Richardson, Jenny Hallam and Ryan Lumber.

I found three aspects of this paper particularly interesting:

  1. The idea of “nearby nature” (aka mundane nature, urban nature), which I take to include neighbourhood parks, road medians, other accidental green spaces, my own backyard, etc.
  2. The idea that writing about experiences for just two minutes a day can bring benefits…writing is thinking in action.
  3. The study’s conclusion that participants benefited from noting three good things each day, in terms of their depth of thought and their sense of connectedness to nature. Those three good things they noted were related to nature: landscape forms, trees and other plants as they transition with seasons, colour, wildlife, smells, observation of seasons, sounds such as birds singing, and the direct experience of weather, such as sunshine or light rain.)

It seemed somehow natural (sic) to use those points as the foundation for a new monthly blog post that includes three photos of nature things I notice while out and about in our Calgary neighbourhood. Here are three things I noticed this month:

1. Winter sun – There’s a lot to like about the winter sun when you live at 51 degrees north. It’s so low in the sky that golden hour seems to last all day and things cast amazingly long shadows. Walking home from the train one day, I climbed to the top of a huge snow pile in the corner of a parking lot to study the mid-afternoon golden sky, the long shadow of the goal post stretching across the snow and the well-established – yet transient – footpath across the playing field.


2. Assimilation – It looks to me like the long grass is ignoring/assimilating the chain link fence along a stretch of paved pathway in one of our neighbourhood parks. I like this hint of wilder nature that the city parks’ lawn mower can’t quite reach.


3. Icy walk – A lot of snow fell in Calgary the first week of January. With many folks away on winter vacation and city crews focused on clearing the roads first, a lot of sidewalks and pathways ended up under a layer of compacted snow and ice. Thanks to warm chinook winds over the past week or so, the walks are finally being cleared. I happened to travel this particular path at just the right time to notice a bit of a similarity to photos I’ve seen of Iceland’s ice beach (which I hope to photograph later this year).


What about you? Do you notice nature in your neighbourhood? If yes, what are some of the most surprising things you’ve observed? If no, please give some thought to leaving your device and ear buds in your pocket next time you’re out and about and then let me know what you think!