reconnecting with nature…city stylez.

June 07, 2011

Field of wheat at sunsetA big part of the essence of Stark is the relationship between city life and natural life. You got that, right? Because Stark products are 100% natural, plant-based and extraordinary  (duh), but made to counteract city toxins? And the logo is a city bird (my personal fave found by the Lachine Canal here in Montreal, the lovely redwing blackbird)? Ok. Moving on.

When I was in university (for the second time, a couple of years back) I had this amazing class that really brought together both Anthropology (my minor) and Human Geography (my major…aka Environmental Studies, aka Geography…doesn’t matter what it’s called.) A big theme we touched on in class, is the relationship that people, whether  city folks or country folks, have with nature.

So, I know the term “nature” is pretty vague. Not only do we see the word “natural” tacked on to every random freakin’ thing in our lives, but the idea, the concept, the essence of what is natural and what is nature pretty much permeates our culture. We want to look natural, do the things that feel natural, get in touch with nature, respect nature, control what’s natural, accentuate it, take it apart and rebuild it.

So what is it? Trees, a countryside, a babbling brook? Can it also be a man-made pond, a carefully designed park (shout out to my homey Olmstead here), or a garden on your windowsill? Is nature only nature when it is natural, uncontained and wild? These questions become tricky when we’re talking about nature in the city, how we relate to nature, and how we bring nature into our lives.

Not to get all hippy-dippy, but I believe that nature means and is something different to all of us, and can vary greatly depending on our immediate environment.  When I lived in Vancouver, nature was my weekly escapes into deep, mossy ravines, old-growth forests, snow-capped mountains and craggy beaches. To me, I was here and it was there; easily accessible, but separate. I could detach myself completely from the city and fill my lungs with rich air that smelled of ozone, fir trees and seaweed. My eyes could scan my surroundings and see very little that had been touched by a human hand (or so it looked, anyhow). I could go into wilderness, and I could become part of it.

I had become accustomed to this lush, wild greenery, and when I moved to Montreal the expanse of grays and browns really hit me. Sure, Montreal has a ton of gorgeous parks and greenery, but not the nearly obscene amounts found in the west. I wasn’t sure how I would adjust. Where could I really go to escape? How would I detach? It just wasn’t the same.

I have since learned to bring nature into my life in a less majestic, but more personal way.  I appreciate the efforts my neighbours put into their personal gardens, I visit the farmer’s markets, I grow vegetables on my balcony and I spend time by the canal and in parks. I have come to love the nature IN the city, the marriage of these two elements becoming something unnexpected and yet whole in itself. I love watching wild grasses, vines and little trees take over abandoned factories covered in spray paint. I love the wildlife I encounter on my daily walks; ground hogs, raccoons, skunks, squirrels and birds galore. I love watching big fat bumblebees doing their rounds. I love the feeling when you’re lucky enough to see a hummingbird, red fox, heron or Downey woodpecker; you truly feel as though you have been given a gift. I love being able to teach my boyfriend, who isn’t from Canada, about the types of trees and flowers that grow indigenously here in Montreal, and which are invasive species. Together, while observing  and appreciating the nature that we’ve reconstructed, let in or that has encroached into the city, we become reconnected.

I have to say that diet and lifestyle do come into play here, once again. Eating plants make me appreciate them. Using natural skincare products also help me feel part of something. I am constantly amazed and thankful to these amazing butters, oils and extracts that come from some pretty humble origins. I love how these plants are so useful to human and animal bodies, how everything works with such synergy. I know, I’m sounding reeaaaallly granola here, but whateves, man. I’m gonna throw my Birkenstocks on and head over to the market for some fresh herbs!

Do you ever think about your relationship with nature? Are you lucky enough to have a close connection with it, or do you need to go out and find it? Tells me, I wanna know!

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