5 ways to enjoy nature in your neighbourhood

Before this year started, it felt like our world was a bit of a whirlwind of busyness and bustle, but with the arrival of COVID and the plea for everyone to stay home as much as possible, most of us have had a chance to slow down. And with a lot of uncertainty still looming, it can be tempting to just hole up in our homes, scroll anxiously through news and social media, and allow a sense of foreboding to take over us. However, if you’d like a break from the trepidation, a moment to appreciate the peace of the present and a chance to explore this lovely city that we call home, we’ve got a few ideas that you will hopefully find helpful.

Go on trash pick up walks. It might be a little gross, but picking up trash is a great way to clean up our neighbourhood and restore the natural state that it was in. It’s also a fun way to slow down and notice the details of our local environment, like what kinds of wildflowers grow in the cracks of sidewalks, or the different types of birds fluttering about.

Start biking or walking to work (or to get coffee or groceries). Yes, biking or walking is great for the environment because it reduces our carbon footprint, but it’s also great because it gets us to slow down and notice things that are just a blur when we’re driving. Every time I go for a walk in my neighbourhood, I notice a new creative garden, or spot a bunny sneaking across the road, or feel a curiosity about what kind of tree is shading me. I’ve also discovered hidden parks, unique shops that are tucked away, or a whole street that I never knew existed. It’s exciting to feel like I’m being reintroduced to a neighbourhood that I thought I was already familiar with.

Grow your own or join a community garden. So many of us have rediscovered the joy of sinking our fingers in the dirt, watering a seemingly bare patch until brave little leaves start to poke their heads out, and watching these little seedlings grow until they’re ready for harvest. If you haven’t tried it yet though, I insist that you do! If you’re a brand new beginner, start slow by buying small established plants. Strawberries are a particular favorite because they sprout these large dark leaves, then little white flowers arrive, and next you get strawberries! They’re also relatively easy to care for. Just leave them in full sun, make sure that they’re watered once every day or two, and feed them some fertilizer once or twice a season (if you can). This site also has some great instructions for how to grow a variety of plants including flowers, vegetables and herbs.

Be a kid again. Some of us grow out of our childlikeness and some of us don’t. I’m in the second camp and although I can get way too stuck in my adult brain that is always filled with thoughts of worry and the future, it’s the moments that I let my creative childlike side take over, that I feel the happiest. Because children are curious and still filled with a wonder about the world. So here are a few things that my child side often encourages me to do. 

  • Flower picking. This has the double benefit of letting you bring some of the beautiful outdoors inside with you and brighten your space, as well as giving you a chance to notice how many different varieties of wild flower grow in Lethbridge.
  • Berry picking – There are several u-picks around Lethbridge where you can pick strawberries, raspberries, saskatoons, and even haskap berries. Their harvest times range so you may have to do a little investigating and planning to grab the berries that you’d like. There is nothing better than fresh berries and ice cream on a hot summer day!
  • Geocaching – If you haven’t tried geocaching yet, it’s a must! The general idea of geocaching is that individuals will hide small boxes, tins, jars, or even odd items like houses, in secret spots, they’ll log the item on the geocaching app, and then other people go looking for the item. It’s like a treasure hunt! There is also usually a piece of paper in the box, so make sure you bring along a pen or pencil to immortalize that you found the cache. 
  • Bird watching – If you’ve been curious about our swooping, soaring neighbors, there are some great bird watching apps that let you listen to the chirps, show you pictures and give a great description of local birds. It’s a great way to start peering up at the sky and appreciating all of the little birds that go unnoticed.  
  • Cloud gazing. When was the last time that you laid down on the grass and just stared up at the clouds, trying to make out animals or objects from the swirling blobs of clouds? It’s a lost art, and one that can be so relaxing and restoring. You can even do this from your backyard, or front step, so you have no excuse to stop for a moment and just enjoy the gorgeous skies that this city lies under.

Start taking pictures. It’s funny how our perspective of something can change when we view it from a different lens. So if you’re trying to enjoy and notice the nature around you more, try picking up a camera or your phone and start snapping pictures. If you really want to dive into learning about some of the quirky little plants that grow in Lethbridge, download this app. It will give you the name and a little information about each variety. 

As we hold our breath in anticipation of how the world is going to turn out in the light of COVID, political and civil unrest, sometimes it’s a good thing to just let go and narrow our focus down to our own little neighborhoods. Rather than thinking about the big bad world and all of the troubles happening out there, let’s try to settle into the moment and enjoy the mischievous breezes that whip our hair around, and the beautiful flowers that scatter themselves across the hills, and the waves of grass that bend and roll with each puff. Let’s release the breath that we’ve been holding in and breath in deeply all of the beauty that we live in. 

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