Engagement with nature in the city
Most of the time on this here blog, you’re hearing Brian talk about nature, wax rhapsodic about his latest hike, or share his daily purification in the waters of South Lake Tahoe. And if you’re wondering at all whether Medicine Box understands what those who are living in a city filled with food deserts and smog issues is going through — well, we’ve got news. Quite a few of us work for the company remotely, two of us from Los Angeles and two others from the Detroit and Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs, to be precise. Passing cars and sirens serenade us to sleep and whatever forms of wilderness exist in the area can be highly curated and non-native. (You’d probably be surprised to find out what in your area actually IS native. In my home city of Los Angeles, for instance, the iconic palm trees aren’t. And since they drink up a lot more water than the city can afford to spare, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has stated they won’t be replaced once they pass away.
So, how does one engage healthfully with nature in an urban environment? You know, one that wasn’t constructed with things like permaculture principles in mind? Especially now, in the midst of a particularly challenging COVID winter, where traveling is discouraged, and public health messaging has proven simultaneously confusing and traumatizing, access to parks and outdoor spaces can be fraught with anxiety. You may also be in areas of the country where it’s particularly inclement as well, too.
Well, this is how I’m handling it. And mind you that your mileage may vary. I’m a single person living alone, so those living in closer quarters will need to consider a more collaborative approach. That isn’t the worst thing imaginable — collaboration, after all, is one of Medicine Box’s Foundational Pillars for Holistic Health. Still, it’s important to consider good ways for those of us sealed up inside can self-soothe. They’ve kept me on an even keel, at least, so alter as you see fit.
Cultivate your inner nature – and your hiber-nature
If you’ve seen Brian’s videos, you’ve probably seen his lovely-looking refuge. He employs this happy space alongside frequent jaunts in nature to keep himself balanced out. If you don’t have a space like this in your home, create an external manifestation of your own desired inner atmosphere. My own space is where I usually do my own daily yoga and meditation. For me, it’s important to cultivate an ideal inner nature, especially when the outer world is filled with a lot of negativity on all sides.
In addition, I consider these winter months a moment of hibernation – a time to hunker down and prepare for better moments and bigger personal changes ahead for me this year. These patterns are in some ways universal, and important to respect.
Learn your local flora and fauna
Every city has its own nature reserves, or what is officially called “Parks & Recreation.” Some of them give their residents an opportunity to work with the land. Houston, TX, for instance, hosts an urban garden program where city folks can work with nature in select parks. The Ernest Debs Regional Park near me hosts an Audobon Center with a library dedicated in 2016 to Wes Craven, who apparently was a passionate birder when he wasn’t making slasher films. Pretty much every nature space carved out in your city has a group of volunteers that know every square inch of it, and would be more than happy to share that information with you.
Of course, you don’t have to geek out on nature to enjoy it. The relationship you have with nature is your own. We’re all about experiencing nature firsthand here in order to heal from it — hence our work with plant medicines. Equanimity, in particular, is an optimal medicine for such jaunts into the natural world as well, too. If you’re going to commune with the plants, it’s best to sync oneself up with them, we reckon.
Shape your urban environment
Back in the day, advocacy was a prime Medicine Box pillar, and while we now see it as folded in with Collaboration and Community, it’s still important to stand up for the non-human citizens in your city. This can take a lot of different forms. For instance, every city sets policies on land use and zoning, and there’s one group of entities whose interests are not really consulted: the plants. Advocating for land rehabilitation and more robust support for open space gives plants in your area a voice they don’t otherwise have.
Brian also deeply admires San Francisco’s long-standing composting partnership with Recology. Over 255,000 tons of organic waste, or 650 tons a day, are converted into 350 tons of compost a day and sent to farms and vineyards across the state. As you’ll recall from his previous blog post on preserving our plants, it all starts with the soil. Good compost contains humus that retains water, so San Francisco’s initiatives are well-appreciated by the local farmers and vintners. In addition, keeping organic waste out of our landfills prevents over 93,000 metric tons of carbon from entering our atmosphere as well. Programs like this are no-brainers for cities to get behind – check to see if yours does as well.
No matter how surrounded by technology we may be, we’re still a part of nature. Since cities derive so many of their resources from nature, it is critical for cities and their citizens to recognize their role in the relationship. Eventually, whether we acknowledge it or not, nature will reclaim the cities just as surely as it has Machu Picchu, or all the towns and cities on the California coastlines, eventually. Whether we abandon or retain our plot of land depends on how much we ourselves adapt to the demands of the Ultimate Landlord, which is the land itself.