The outdoors has always been my happy place. I was lucky to have parents who took me camping when I was young, a father that taught me how to fish and hunt and to treat nature with respect. Some of my earliest memories are with him on the banks of the South Saskatchewan river, scouring the shoreline for lures and picking up garbage when the fish weren’t biting.
But not everyone is so fortunate. There are so many who grow up without healthy leadership and mentors in their lives; or worse. I’ve known great children with heartbreaking histories; there are schools where some don’t have socks or coats for winter; there are communities which don’t have safe drinking water; neighbourhoods where simply going for a walk may be ill advised. There are families seeking asylum in our country whose children fear getting on a bus because where they are from, people who get on one do not come back.
I know that my ability to contemplate and worry about nature disconnect in people’s lives is pale compared to the worries and priorities of so many who go without having their basic human needs met, even right here in Canada. But I also know that facilitating outdoor experience and connection with nature can change lives for the better, and has never been more important than it is today.
I’ve seen the intense benefits of bringing people into nature. I know what it looks like to see a group of kids explore a forest for the first time, having never been outside of the city. I know the power of giving somebody a notebook, pen, and some free time in the woods away from their phone. I’ve had teachers speak to me with tears in their eyes because of changes they’d seen in students on a daytrip. Outdoor Educators, we witness leaders emerge, people face fears, be courageous, and engage in genuine problem solving and teamwork. We witness the breakdowns of class and segregation, of race and gender boundaries. We witness people learn how to act in a community; we see humans seeing humans. And this is age independent.
When people open themselves to the natural world there is real joy, joy which permeates the boundaries between demographics, a joy that can bring hope and a sense of purpose. It grants access to a different path to walk, changing how people may view themselves, each other, and our world. On a personal level I know this to be true.
Being immersed in nature has helped me cope when times have been difficult, when I’ve felt alone. When I needed to make better choices as a teenager, I was able to turn to my childhood connections with nature to walk a different path. So now I work to give others the same option.
Tumbleweed Naturalist was born out of that will to help support positive change in the lives of people through outdoor connection and creative expression; to pay forward what was given to me by my parents and mentors.
My work focuses on the following formats:
Working with adults; working with other educators; working with youth; and highlighting new perspectives on outdoor education, environmentalism, and the outdoor culture with my writing and artwork.
Please join me in a pursuit build a deeply connected outdoor culture in Canada, one which nurtures respect, creativity, and curiosity.
Thanks for reading!