In our new series, Nature & Me, we invite guest bloggers to share their experiences of how nature has made an impact on their lives. Today is the turn of Rebecca Marshall; travel blogger and bee farmer.
Sitting in the garden, I began to reminisce. I was remembering a time as my four year old self – and how in hindsight my mood would be so different when going to bed if I had spent the day being outside amongst nature, rather than in front of TV shows like Thunder Cats and Sesame Street for hours on end.
I remember going to bed, excited about waking up the next day to go back to the pond in the garden searching for newts, or wading through the long grass on the lookout for hiding pheasants. I remember literally wanting to jump out of bed and get out, rather than the opposite scenario of staying in bed until 11am because “there was nothing good on tv”, so didn’t feel there was much point in beginning my day.
However, teenage years suppressed these memories for a while until the age of 19 when I decided to go to stay in the French Alps for the winter, with the intention of staying on to work as a bee farmer’s assistant the following spring and summer.
In the Alps I became aware of how in awe I was of the scenery: the lush evergreen trees scattered so perfectly across the sides of majestic mountain faces. Out there I felt a huge sense of gratitude for this beautiful world we live in; a big blanket of peace felt like it surrounded me. You could sit at an altitude of 3000 metres above sea level and in this still silence the vast space would amaze me. The towering glaciers dwarfed me and made me realise what a teeny tiny ‘thing’ we are amongst all this amazing, natural, beauty. Up high and a small hike away, I would be surrounded by only natural wonders – nothing man made – it was as if a magnificent artist had created it especially for us to enjoy and to humble us somewhat.
I came back to the UK and began my first summer working with bees. No matter the weather, rain or shine, I would be outside in glorious sun or in a soggy wet bee suit – but I loved it! I loved being in woods surrounded by trees that were hundreds of years old, wondering what Lords and Ladies had trotted through them on horse back all those years ago. Seeing the different flowers through the seasons and how the crops changed fascinated me. Whilst being amongst all this nature I got to watch and learn all about honey bees, seeing them daily collecting pollen from the flowers, foraging and getting the rewards of nectar from the plants. I seemed to always have a smile on my face.
With the 21st Century being as it is, I gave in to world pressures and so many people saying: “you need to get a proper job”, so I ventured into the corporate world after three years of repeating my Alps/bee farming cycle. I learned heaps about business during this time, and it was so beneficial to what would later become my careers as a bee farmer and yet I always felt like something was missing. I was constantly trying to work out ways of being outdoors again. The ‘suited and booted’ lifestyle lasted a brief 18 months before I broke out and realised dreaming of spreadsheets was not for me, but the bees were.
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better” Albert Einstein
I hung up the pencil skirts and was back in my overalls – all of a sudden I was waking up with that sense of inner peace again. I was back to my four year old self, jumping out of bed excited to start my day of outdoor adventures, wondering what I would see. It was as if I couldn’t believe this was my actual job: I was being paid to not only do something I love, but something that also benefits my everyday living and expands my mind. My dreams were intoxicated with more COLOUR, more LIFE, more EXPLORATION; a thirst to see and do more in our beautiful planet; a realisation that life is here for us to enjoy, but unless you put yourself in the position of following your dreams and the ‘thing’ that ignites your soul and sets it on fire, there is a chance you could block your path to bloom and flourish.
This is where my phrase “You Can’t Grow bananas in Alaska” comes from. Just how I didn’t feel like my heart’s desires were fulfilled in the high pressured, corporate life, you can’t grow bananas in Alaska: you can’t fulfil your dreams if you aren’t pursuing them in the right environment, or putting yourself in a place where you can. I knew nature was the ‘thing’ that made me tick, inbuilt in me from a child. I needed to follow that thirst for nature, even though I knew it meant taking a pay cut and a pretty big lifestyle change. I knew it was what I had to do to find my sense of true happiness again.
In 2015 I began practicing yoga and mindfulness and I was overwhelmed with the positive effects it was having on my everyday life. It was as if someone had pulled off a filter that had been over my eyes for a very long time. I was so used to rushing everywhere and doing high intensity sports – I was missing the world go by because of my pace of living. I had at first put yoga off for a long time because I thought it might be slow and boring. How wrong I was! Slowing my pace of life down and making time to take all that was around me in; the smells; the sounds; the senses – I was feeling completely changed everyday.
One mindfulness technique which has stood out for me and daily puts a smile on my face is choosing a colour to focus on. Simply notice it whenever you see it. The first time I did this, I chose orange and off I went on my morning run. I was shocked to realise how often I saw this colour all of a sudden. In leaves on the trees, in brick work on houses, peeling tree bark, where metal had begun to rust – it was everywhere! Everything appeared so much more vivid and colourful, just from being aware that it was there.
I became more grateful for the nature around us and I still can’t get my head around how intricate every little thing growing and living around us is. Slowing life down a touch and learning to appreciate our natural surroundings has bought me so much joy, peace and gratefulness amongst a hectic 21st Century world. I realised very quickly that life is pretty amazing when you just take the time to see it.
The Good Life Project is evidencing the impact of nature on health, wellbeing and behaviour, led by behaviourist and broadcaster Jez Rose, with support from a team of psychologists and neuroscientists. For more inspiration on how you can use nature to your benefit in your workplace and at home, take a look at our website for free resources and details of our rural skills workshops held here at the farm. www.thegoodlifeproject.info