Love Nature but HATE Winter - Stop Doing This One Thing....

Vitamin "N" and Green Benefits are being touted all over the place!  But what if your outdoor environment isn't green?  What happens if for over FOUR months you find yourself in the deep white and grey of the winter season and your location is muted and dark and you feel like you will never see that vibrant green again?

I know for many Canadians that winter is hard - toughing it out for week after week through a season you HATE would make anyone miserable.

Winter is hard and relentless I know.

But if you DO find yourself wishing for GREEN & WARMTH through the whole winter and curse the outdoors for every single one of these months, consider this one adjustment:

Stop Hating Winter.

This all-encompassing judgement of the season, can truly make a difficult experience even worse.  Hate is a strong emotion and seeing winter as just this one awful thing can really make a hard situation even worse.

Most things are not all black or white.

Generalizations narrow down our view.

Hate can overtake us and cloud us from seeing anything else.

So if you are open to exploring this opportunity to see Winter in a different way start asking yourself to clarify what it is you don't like about the season.
Do you really hate everything about winter?   
Are there specific things that you find hard to tolerate?   
Is it the cold?   
Is it the dark evenings?  
Is it your commute?  
What is it that makes winter so hard for you?   

By clearly defining what it is you don't like, you can start seeing this season in a different way.  You open up the possibility that there may be things that you DO like about winter.

Then get curious about the specifics. Break it down even more:
How cold is too cold?  
Is it at -10 degrees Celsius?  
Is it at -15 degrees Celsius? 
Is it that your feet get too cold? 
Or that you feel the wind on your face?

By exploring in more detail what you don't like about winter, you can determine if there are things that you can do to improve your experience.  How can you change your experience with cold?  Is there something you can do to make this experience better?  Buy new boots?  Ensure that you get outdoors when the weather is mild on your free days so as to increase your positive experiences with winter?

Keep asking yourself questions and see what parts of the season, are tolerable.  Keep peeling away at the questions to really understand what your tolerance levels are and where you can make adjustments or help yourself out.

When you become that much more specific you can identify that what you really hate is winter commuting in storms and this can help you be open to the fact that winter storms are not as frequent as you had originally thought.  That these storms only happen a few times a month and that for the rest of the month commuting is tolerable.

Or maybe you'll start noticing that there are days that feel "warm" and where you can turn your face to the sun and enjoy the light and that these days make winter almost pleasurable.  Almost!

This one change in attitude and the way you see winter, can be the first step in helping you ease into a better acceptance of the season.  By letting go of the "HATE" you may find that there are some positive moments that you can capture and enjoy and that some aspects are not as intolerable as you may have once thought.

What are other changes that you can consider, to help make winter more tolerable?  

Sign up for my "Easing into Winter" 10 day mini-course with five easy lessons to explore other ways to change your relationship to this season starting on March 6th, 2019.

I've created this new online mini-course to support you in this cold and unwelcoming season that doesn't seem to want to end.  This new course will also be an opportunity for us to gather our nearby nature-loving community.  For this first year (the BETA version), we will have a small community of 10 to 20 students.  Read more about it here and sign up below.

***  PLEASE NOTE - This mini-course is not meant to replace the help of a trained therapist if you have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or have been diagnosed with clinical depression.  If you are unsure of the severity of your mental health, please seek professional help for a diagnosis and treatment.

Yes! I want to join the "Easing into Winter" mini-course.

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What Nature Has Done for Me Lately

As I spend more times outdoors and prioritize this incredibly beneficial activity, I've been noticing a change in attitude, values and desires.  They may have been there before but they have been increasing in importance and have really started to shape the way I live my life.  Even as an entrepreneur speaking about the benefits of nature, being out in nature is not always second-nature to me.  I grew up in the era of "television as a babysitter"!  So I like many others need to identify the best ways to motivate myself so that nature connection is a priority.   Knowing how much nature does enrich various aspects of my life is a great reminder to keep scheduling my Vitamin N regularly in my week.

Here are some of my current "findings" about what nature has done for me lately:
- Encourages me to slow down and become more present  (I'm even experimenting with expanding time!) 
- Provides me with that feeling of connectedness and being part of something bigger 
- Allows me to feel satisfied with what is and happy about what I have (Really, I don't need more stuff to provide me with happiness!) 
- Gives me so much joy and simple pleasure and helps me connect with the truth of 
- Is a constant reliable companion - always available, always welcoming, always the same (in its cycles, rhythms and moods even as they differ throughout the year) 
- Accepts me as I am - I feel welcomed and nurtured as an introvert by nature - no small talk needed!

After being outdoors in nature, I have more clarity about my life - things seem simpler and I remember why it is so important to be sustainable (but also forgiving in how much I can do).  Getting outside resonates with my current desires to have a simple life, enjoy the pleasure of good food, keep a tidy house, seek less distractions and find better connections.

P.S. You May Also Like:

Treat Yourself the Wild Way (2016 two-part series)

Tuning into Your Personal Connection with Nature (December 2016)

Mindful Modalities to Connect to Nature (October 2017)

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How Nature Does Such a Fabulous Job at Supporting Introverts

Are you an introvert?  Do you feel yourself drawn to natural spaces?  Does being in nature provide comfort and a feeling of retreat - a place to ponder?  Does creativity, your introverted personality and nature connection all go hand in hand for you?  I've been thinking about this lately!

What is it about nature that compliments my introverted tendencies so well?

How is it that I feel so supported, strengthened and welcomed by nature?  Why does nature feel like a return to my true inner self - a place where I can be quiet, contemplative and really hear the messages that my body and mind need to receive?  What makes nature and introverts fit so well together?

Nature offers us a quiet, calm setting.  The natural "tendency" of this environment (and the flora and fauna of which it consists) is quiet and focused - plants growing, animals searching for sustenance, water meandering through a landscape, the occupants (our sun, other stars, clouds, etc) of the sky drifting on their course. Absolutely, there are upsurges in terms of storms and predators and water falls but the return to a stasis of calm seems to be where balance comes back to all.  Nature is a great touchstone to connect us with that calm balance.

Nature helps us resynch and reset.   While we may crave calm and quiet, some places may be TOO still and silent, unnervingly so in some ways.  Being at home without any contact with the outside world can become almost too much for even the most introverted.  And moving pictures on a screen are no substitute.  Nature offers us its own steady and natural rhythm and this movement and energy can help us rebalance our own nervous systems.  Movement means life and our bodies recognize this and nature can offer this type of interaction with the world in a way that doesn't feel intimidating.

Nature provides us with space.  A visit to a green space can provide a quiet place and room to breathe, where introverts won't feel hemmed in or crowded by others.  They can be alone even if there are others on the trail.  Interaction is not required, everyone usually gives other people their own space, so it's easy to sit on a bench or out in a park and enjoy the outdoors on your own.  Nature provides enough space for all.  Being offered some spaciousness to be able to hear ourselves think, connect inwards and allow for unhurried observations is so key to introverts.  We feel welcomed by nature because it seems to understand our needs.  It's like having a friend who validates our feelings and doesn't question too much or want to interject their opinions at the wrong time.

If you are an introvert, what do you like about nature?  How does it support your need to process things internally, to take your time to review options before speaking, to slowly reveal who you are over time once trust has been built up?

Nature has always appreciated introverts - it's great to see society is starting to appreciate our valuable contemplative traits as well.

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"Worth the Trip" for Snowshoeing (Winter in Ottawa)

Wow - that's a whole bunch of snow we got this week - time to take advantage of it!

As a follow up to my 2018 post about stellar urban locations to go snowshoeing here are a few of my favourite "Worth the Drive or Bus Ride" snowshoe spots!  I've listed them from East To West so going from Orleans to Mud Lake (Britannia).  Let me know if there are any favourite hidden spots in the Kanata area that I should explore on my snowshoes!

1. Orleans Trail to see Waterfall

Princess Louise - Fallingbrook Falls - This is one of those popular dog spots so you will find that there is a winter walking trail here but it can be lots of fun on your snowshoes especially after a big snowfall!

You can take a bus (the Transitway will get you to Trim or Place d'Orleans and you can take a local bus from there).   Access to the trails are from above on Princess Louise Drive or Old 10th Line Road and then you can have a bit of an adventure exploring this narrow yet beautiful greenspace and identifying the best route to appreciate the falls from either above or below.  It's fantastic to see the creek (upstream from the waterfall) first and then descend along the ridge to the bottom (along St. Joseph Boulevard) to take in the grandeur from below.  There are some options for a more gradual descent or a more steep quick angle down - so choose what feels best for you.  To help you situate where the falls are - they are marked in this online Waterfalls of Ontario - Google Map.

You can extend your snowshoe outing further into Fallingbrook Park (south of Princess Louise Drive) if you want and follow the creek upstream to Charlemagne Boulevard.  Plus we saw wild turkeys along the parkway on our drive back home - you never know what you might see!

2. Green's Creek Trails

This area of the Greenbelt offers some great spots for exploring as Green's Creek winds through and makes some lovely crests and valleys on its way to the Ottawa River.

It's not the easiest spot to access by bus but you can take a local bus from Blair Station to Blackburn Hamlet and it stops right in front of the "Hornet's Nest" - the white dome off of Bearbrook Road.  There are also two parking lots (P 26 - closer to the toboggan hill and P25 - where the dome is).  If you view the N.C.C. Greenbelt All Season Trail map online (click on "Launch the Interactive Map") you will see three trails: 60, 61, 63.  I would recommend all three as some are more out in the open and some in more shrubby, forested areas.  The graffiti pillars (closer to P26) are worth checking out (as seen in the first photo for this post above) as is the informal snowshoe trail along the stream where you can get some great views (as you can see from the Greens Creek image).

Many of the snowshoe paths follow alongside the cross-country ski path.  Ensure that you do not snowshoe across or snowshoe on the ski tracks, as it is hard for nordic skiers to keep pace when their tracks are broken.  (This area is maintained by the Orleans Nordic Ski Club.)  Some snowshoe tracks break away from the bigger trails and go through some of the forested areas so you can explore more of this area on your snowshoes than on skis!  (p.s. Let's pretend that's a sun spot rather than a foggy lens on the photo above!)  We've seen owls, deer and mink here!

3. Forest near Canadian Aviation and Space Museum

You will most likely need your car for this, although there is an occasional bus that goes to the Aviation museum or you could access the forested area from the north end of Blair Road (a local bus stop is here at Blair and Massey).  There may be some more buses once Wateridge Village is built out but for now, this forested area north of the Parkway is pretty quiet.  Some dog walkers park along C.H. Airport-Marina Road (west side of the forest) and others park at the cul de sac at the end of Blair Rd (east side of the forest).

This is a lovely forested area that offers many small trails broken by dog walkers and some varied terrain that opens to the Ottawa-Outaouais River.  (The forest is bounded by the River, the Parkway, the Airport-Marina Road and the extension of Massey Lane to the boat launch.)  Plus there is a new area to explore along the southern side of the Sir George Etienne Cartier Parkway where there is a newly constructed bikepath/walking trail around the recently developed stormwater ponds that were created to capture the runoff from the new development.  They are fed by a waterfall along the ridge.  You won't be able to find the path right now but you could create a trail of your own!  We found some sweet winter tracks made by mice and have seen wild turkey here.  There is also great birding along the river.

4. Uplands Drive Hydro Corridor

This space is a favourite of mine as there is so much to explore.  I've only visited the western section and plan on exploring the areas closer to McCarthy Road this year.  There is some rough terrain here but not too steep and you will find that you go through a variety of environments/habitats, some shrubby, some more sparse and even a few treed areas.  It's more wooded in the eastern section.  With the open areas you may spot some larger birds and/or raptors!

What is amazing here are the long vistas, surprising in a denser area of the city, where the horizon is almost uninterrupted natural area.  You'll meet dog walkers again but feel free to break your own trail and have some fun!  Access here is from some of the dead-ends and cul-de-sacs off Uplands, through McCarthy Park and off McCarthy Road.  You can also access directly from the bus stop on Riverside Drive across from Vittoria Trattoria - which is actually a great place to warm up after - the restaurant offers delicious wood fired pizza!

5. Nepean Sportsplex - Pinhey Forest Trails

This is one of the spots that is easy to take transit to as it is on the main Transitway route in Nepean.  However there is still a bit of hike to get behind the Sportsplex and to the back of the parking lot where you will find the forested paths, so keep this in mind.  If the Sportsplex is open you can even walk through the building and use it to warm up after!

This is a great spot both due to the frequent buses and also because this is one of the larger intact forests in the city.  Ontario Trails notes that the two trails (Trail 31 & Trail 32) add up to almost 7 kms of trails both behind the Sportsplex and on the south side of Slack Road (where Pinhey Forest continues) which gives visitors lots to explore.  The forest is a mix of habitat with cedar and coniferous groves along with some areas that have rows of planted pines.  I visit when I can and wrote about a forest bathing walk I enjoyed here a few years ago.

Keep in mind this is a shared trail with skiers so be considerate when using the trail but the main trail is wide so easy to share.  There are great trail signs to keep you on the right path and a variety of loop lengths that all bring you back to the parking lot.  Lots of great squirrel activity here!

6. Britannia Conservation Area

The Britannia beach area including Mud Lake is just a nature lovers dream!  You may want to snowshoe through the more open areas of the western side or closer to the Parkway and Richmond Road.  Or you can go along the more wooded trails that loop around the lake (the western side paths do not offer the lake views though).  You can check the northern sections for winter ducks or you can even consider the Britannia Beach point (behind the Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre).  This area also links up by a bike path (which you could snowshoe along) through to Andrew Haydon Park.

There are a few options for taking transit to this location as there is a bus that stops at the Lakeside centre or you can get off at the Lincoln Fields Transitway and venture north into the greenspace area.  One thing to note is that there is only a small connecting greenspace (where the bike path is) between the Britannia Park and Beach area to the Conservation Area and Mud Lake.  This is along Howe Street.  And while you are on Howe Street you might as well take a break and warm up at the Britannia Coffeehouse (273 Britannia Road).  It's open Fri - Sun in the winter months!

(Example of Trail Map and Markers found in NCC Greenspaces such as Green's Creek, Nepean Sportsplex.)

**Princess Louise Waterfall photo by Viliam Glazduri (InstagramFlickr500 pxContributing Creative to Wild. Here.
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When You don't have Time to go Forest Bathing (Nearby Nature Connection 101)

It's wonderful to see more and more people embracing the benefits of nature and realizing how critical it is to get outside and connected to nature.  There are now predictions that hiking will become the newest "health trend" surpassing yoga (wow!) which has had quite a surge in the past two decades or so.  How amazing would that be if you had as many hiking clubs as you did yoga studios? Along with that, forest bathing (shinrin-yoku), which became popular in Japan in the 1980's, is now a guided therapy that you can enjoy here in North America.  Vitamin N is being prescribed by doctors to help alleviate health issues.  Rewilding, wild edibles, unique outdoor adventures (fat biking anyone?) and other nature experiences are becoming quite the buzz words...

But what about all those days when you don't have time to drive out to a forested area or spend the day enjoying a hike?  How do we get through a stressful week of an urban life with no backcountry wilderness at our doorstep?  Are there ways to incorporate a more nature-focused life into our daily schedule?

Nearby nature connection can be as beneficial as a wilderness experience and the good thing is there is no difficult "re-entry" back into the real world and you don't need to always be harbouring pangs to "get out of the city".

It's really powerful to realize (and access) the benefits of nature close to home.

I liken a "nearby nature connection" to practicing yoga "off the mat" or being able to access the peace & tranquility from a spiritual retreat even when you find yourself back to the "real world".

  • Enjoying more nature connection starts with slowing down your day and understanding how you already connect to nature.
  • Increase the time you are spending outdoors in five minute increments - make small adjustments rather than try to go all out right away.

P.S. are you Struggling with Winter right now?  Consider taking my 10 day mini-course starting March 6th!

What is your favourite way to get your Vitamin N close to home?  

Do you enjoy quick, short sessions of forest bathing - including simple, relaxing walks in the woods on your own or with friends?  

What is your go to ritual when you need a bit of quiet zen that only nature can give?

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"Limited Time" Outdoor Experiences - Don't Miss them Before they are Gone!

Summer is fleeting but it feels even more fleeting if we don't find the time to get outdoors and really enjoy what it has to offer.  It's a time that seems to be begging to enjoy a slower pace but in these modern times, slowing down isn't something that most people make a priority, even when we have these warm days and extended daylight hours.

And yet time waits for no one and for those of us in the northern hemisphere, here we are with summer days ticking down and Labour Day looming and the opportunity for warm outdoor adventures waning.

So if you want to take advantage of what summer has to offer before it's too late, see if you can schedule some of the following activities like you would your next work task.  Put this "Nature Time" in your day timer and don't cancel for any reason.  And/or when you find that you have a few moments outdoors, let it all sink in.

Use as many senses as possible:
  • what can you hear (both near and far), 
  • what do you see, let the colours of summer saturate your view, 
  • what do you feel - heat, air, a breeze... 

Set reminders in your calendar like you would for a very important meeting.  Make nature your most important client!

Savouring & Sinking into Summer List

Relax on a park bench with a water view rather than parking yourself on your couch in front of the TV.  Water is a magnet for activity whether it's a quiet stream or pond with some possible wildlife appearances or a bigger lake or river with people out on the water.

- Forget the dishes and get outside after dinner.  By mid September the sun will be setting around seven thirty and not long after that, it will be day light savings time.  Take advantage of the extra light.

Seek out some mammals before they hibernate.  Remember the more you go out, the more chances you have to see wildlife.  Best times are early morning or close to sunset.  (I just saw a fox at an urban pond where I enjoy a morning swim from time to time.)

Go for a bike ride as this is a great way to cool down if there is a slight breeze and choose a route that allows you to enjoy some coasting!

- Patios, patios, patios.  If you like eating outdoors, consider this a friendly reminder to enjoy every al fresco dining experience you can.  Including those quick coffee breaks!  :  )

- Pack a blanket in your trunk or bike bag and schedule some time in a park.  Bring your favourite book, some snacks and possibly even a frisbee or ball if you can entice someone else out also.  When was the last time you spent a few lazy hours outdoors?

Expand your bird call knowledge and get to know what birds are close by.  I find that I enjoy the outdoors more when I know that's a blue jay behind me in that tree or there's a gull flying by down the street.

- Take off those shoes and walk barefoot while you still can.  Find a grassy spot at lunch or seek out one last visit to a local beach to feel the sand in your toes.

Find a large field that you can wander through and enjoy some butterflies (I've seen lots of Monarchs this year - yay!), dragon flies and even moths and lightening bugs if you stay after sun down.

- Another way to benefit from these warm nights (while they last) is to check out the starry night sky.  Try to get to the edge of the city or just enjoy the stars you can see in a large park or from a greener vista.

What are your favourite summer activities that you want to double down on 
before the warm weather is gone?

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Summer Scent-scape (and all five senses outdoors)

I know I've written a bit about this before but I was reminded of it during a bike ride I took a few weeks ago and also while reading the amazing book: The Cincinnati Arch by John Tallmadge.  He touched upon so many things in 2004 that are being brought into the forefront now and discussed in detail now: invasive species, nature deficit disorder, modern life outside of nature, etc. which included the difference between our indoor sheltered life and the rich sensory experiences of outdoor excursions.

When we get out in nature it can be a five sense experience!

If not all five senses, it definitely augments our soundscape, our viewscape and our scent-scape and even our sense-scape (think of the feeling of the wind on skin or different types of ground underfoot or even just the sun on our face).  We can even augment the physical sensations by swimming, biking (feeling water and apparent wind) and other physical activities.  Taste can even grace our outdoor experience, through sweat on our face that falls on our lips or if we are knowledgeable about native plants and feel like tasting some of our finds.  (Are there other taste-scapes we experience by going outdoors?)
apparent wind* ( \ ə-ˈper-ənt wīnd): the movement of air experienced by an observer in motion and is the relative velocity of the wind in relation to the observer (link)

But my bike ride was a reminder that the scent-scape of these warm long days is something truly pleasurable to experience especially in high summer when we can smell white clover or that slight aroma of dried grasses in a field.  We also looped along the river where the air was a bit humid and reminded me of childhood scents from searching for crayfish in the shallow riffles near my home.

And I have to admit that even a slight odour of a musty skunk spray that lingered from a night or two ago along one portion of the path, made me smile, as if I had better tracking skills than I actual do.

So I just wanted to share a short "public service announcement" as a reminder to get outside while the days are still warm and the evenings are still long and enjoy all five senses including experiencing the outdoors.

I also noted that there are so many white blooms around and enjoyed taking photos of some of the great surprises that greeted us.  Some times it's hard to remember, but each time we go out, even in the same location, there will be interesting and unique experiences and observations.

As always - happy wilding!

And remember Every Minute in Nature Counts!

*ever since I learnt this definition in a sailing class, each time I'm in a boat or on my bike, I note to myself "and there is the apparent wind" - as if it's a magical, hidden entity that I can only entice to show itself when I get out on the water or on my two-wheeler
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