This time of the year the earth just feels like it is glowing.

Happy spring everyone. The kaleidoscope of greens that are quickly painting the earth are so vibrant. Energy is moving upward into the plants, and even us humans feel like we have more vitality in our bones. Birds are filling the land with melodious song, insects are buzzing, the creeks are warming. This earth is so alive right now. Don’t miss it. Get outside and soak it in. — Hub Knott

Your April Nature Mission: Go on a wander.

One of my favorite things to do in the woods is to wander—without time or destination. It is not going to a particular place like a waterfall or following a certain trail. The spirit of it is “going towards but not to.” There is a difference in that statement that is often missed.

This is where you can be led on a journey where you can discover things you normally miss, or explore areas you have never been.

In modern life, this can be a hard thing to do as it is a little countercultural in our time and destination-structured society. Yet it is such a nourishing way to be in the woods and it is a gateway to endless discoveries in the natural world. A great wander will leave you stoked and curious about life on so many levels. It has a centering power to it.

woman looks at animal tracks while smiling on a nature wander
man leans down over a set of animal tracks by the water while on a nature wander

What can this look like?

Go to a local wild area (park, a patch of woods in a neighborhood, etc.), get out of the car, look around for a moment, feel the call in a certain direction, and just head that way. If you find yourself going the normal path, you might be approaching this wrong. As you go, you might be drawn to look at a certain plant, sit by a tree, or just notice things in a fresh way with your senses attuned. At some point, that trail might split in 2 directions and you feel most called to go one way over the other. You actually feel it in your body. So you go that way, fully open to what you might discover. And so it goes, on and on, noticing things in a way you have not before with the beginners mind, going to areas you have not been. It is a process of discovery and being led possibly on land you “know” well. And yet it can feel like the first time.

On a final note: trust that your body knows. It knows where to go. It knows how to move naturally. It knows how to move in the flow, to navigate the terrain. Hiccups come when we let our minds confuse our natural instinct. The demon of self-doubt rears its self-defeating head. Trust that your body knows. It is a sense in itself, showing up as a gut feeling. The bushman I visited in Botswana, Africa depended on this gut feeling to protect them from harm or lead them to food. A wander is a great way to sensitize yourself to learn to listen a little more deeply. Make an ally with it.

Post Wander: Reflect on how you feel. What was exciting? What was hard? What are you grateful for today?

a red flower blooms during spring
yellow flower blooming in the sun

Mentoring Moment: The Flying Squirrel and CIT’s

Years ago at summer camp, I saw a bunch of teen counselors in training sitting around the central fire, discussing random teenage things, conversations that seemed to go nowhere. I called them over to the base of a giant Black Walnut tree. Pouring out of the base was a bunch of brown/black pellets about ¼ inch at the longest that looked like good dirt or poop.

I asked them, “what is this stuff?” They had no idea but attempted some guesses after I had them get on their knees to look close. They were convinced it was scat (poop). I asked, “what animal?” They made all sorts of random guesses—rabbit (in a tree?), mouse (that big?), coon (that small?), etc. The guesses went on.

I told them about a book that would help them. They fetched it. I jokingly said no food till they get it right. After about 20 minutes of sifting through pictures and measuring it, they told me squirrel scat. Without giving any facial expression they could read, I simply said it sounds like you are guessing. To which they did not argue.

I asked, “why not flying squirrel? Wood rat? Vole?” They couldn’t tell me. So as I walked away, I said give me 3 reasons why it is what you think it is and why not any of the others. They, uncharacteristically for teens, immediately went back to the book to solve the scat mystery. After about 20 minutes, they came up, proud this time, and told me their reasoning point by point.

Now I could have told them what it was- but where is the learning in that? I could have let their first guess be enough, but I knew they could learn more. If I accepted their guess, they would not have owned their answer, knowing they were guessing. In the process, they came together, unraveled a puzzle, and gained confidence in their ability. And they learned the fine art of identifying scat (which I know you all can’t wait to learn!)

Turns out, it was a flying squirrel scat. And with that the woods came a little more alive with them learning that 5 feet from where they sleep, the mysterious flying squirrels also live there. And they leave their scat in totally different places than gray squirrels. That was tomorrow’s mystery for them to discover.

And so nature knowledge is gained one step at a time.

Want to feel more connected to yourself, others, and nature?

Deeper Roots Immersion, a nine-month gap program, may be for you. Learn more about the curriculum and instructors here.