I didn’t know I knew nature. I was just a child and I had this distorted idea that nature was supposed to be something so extraordinary, that mere mortals had no access to it. Well… I did get the “extraordinary” part right, as it turns out; but I had yet to learn about understated beauty and about patiently waiting to reveal itself. Nature’s beauty can often be striking, but that’s not the rule…

I’m a city girl, born and raised, and I don’t think I could give up being one, no matter how much I love nature. But I was lucky as a child, I had access to both worlds. Having a great-grandmother who lived in a nearby village meant I assimilated nature without even noticing what was happing. I understood growth. I knew the life of a tomato, from the little seed, to the point it ended up sliced in my salad. I knew those beautiful blossoms would eventually become fruit, then pie or marmalade. Cruel as it may sound, I also knew about cute chickens and piglets, and took life as it was, the way my great-grandmother taught me, the way all farmers did.

To my great-grandmother’s amusement and to my grandmother’s outrage, I wanted to run barefoot in the garden, like I had seen other village children do. But much as I enjoyed those things, come evening all I wanted was to go back home, to the comfort of our flat, so I could watch my cartoons before going to bed. The house my great-grandparents built with their own hands was too Spartan for my taste. The bed wasn’t comfortable enough, they had no TV and didn’t want to have one; and the fridge was used as a cupboard – why waste electricity on that when you have a perfectly good and terribly cold cellar? Set in my urban ways from the beginning, I was too young to understand how close to nature, how connected to it my great-grandmother was. She hated spending the night in a suffocating block of flats just as much as I hated that scary countryside nocturnal silence and the early mornings there.

I grew up with nature, but I wasn’t aware of it, it took years to understand it. I kept looking for the extraordinary that was right under my nose, I kept thinking it had to be shocking, it had to be grand.

Most of us were probably thinking that way, considering our disappointed faces when the bus stopped close to the woods. Those woods had inspired sensational descriptive passages in some stories we all read and enjoyed, but we couldn’t believe the teacher when she told us that was the place. Surely she was wrong… I went back to the writer’s words, those words which were painting a picture that had nothing to do with what was in front of me. I could close my eyes and see it; it was nothing like what I saw when opening them. I was expecting surreal light, magical colours, enchanting birdsong, a dreamy reality that only the luckiest of children could experience. The barren trees of a small forest in a grey late autumn day, complete with garbage left behind by other visitors – most primary school trips had that place on the itinerary – had nothing to do with it. Who cared about seasons or nuances or artistic perspective? All I knew – all we knew – was that we were terribly disappointed. And we had to write a composition about that on Monday?…. Talk about unfair…

A few months later we were on another one day trip. The bus stopped and the teacher let us know we were going to have a picnic among the trees on the side of the mountain. For a couple of hours, in that little corner of nature nobody had thought to write about (that we knew of), we became part of the fairy-tale. All those beautiful things in children’s books, the light, the colours, the laughter, the fun and the illusion of timelessness were real. We’d seen images of beautiful children with perfect lives having incredible picnics in enchanting places, and now we were them. We weren’t far from civilization, but hidden behind the trees, in the tall grass, we could pretend…

I eventually understood nature’s diversity, together with the fact that we don’t make it a part of our lives; we live within it, it lets us survive, thrive and wonder, even when  that means its destruction. These days I occasionally find myself missing those simple moments in simple nature, the way my great-grandmother taught me when gardening. Wouldn’t it be fun to take off those high heels and just climb a tree?… The last time I saw my great-grandmother up in a tree, gathering fruit, she was in her eighties, so I know she would approve.

Judging by the number of mini herb gardens I see outside people’s windows in the summer, I believe I’m not the only one feeling that way. I may be a city dwellers, but nature is part of us, getting in touch with it makes us whole. Thank you for the reminder and for inspiring this post, Patti (Lens-Artists Weekly Challenge – Nature).

32 Replies to “Nature”

  1. I so understand that mismatch between my own real life environment (dull, unworthy of notice) and the exotic world of books. Only when my own country (New Zealand) began producing children’s writers did my world begin to seem a place where adventures could happen.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. so much to enjoy here – and that picnic in nature is inspriing –

    also, loved this closing thought:

    I may be a city dwellers, but nature is part of us, getting in touch with it makes us whole.

    ((and science can back this up too – with “earthing” and all that))

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          1. Well none as specific as this one here. But I remember being at a huge park (scratched my knee) but the green and vastness.
            Or other brief flashbacks of enjoying outdoors – – ahhh

            Liked by 1 person

    1. She died years ago, but she generally lived the life she wanted to live, she was the kind of woman who didn’t waste much time on regrets. I was lucky to have her in my life when I was a child, she taught me so many things, even if I wasn’t really aware of it at the time.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Beautiful post, Ana. You remind me of my own childhood, when I was learning to have a relationship with nature. You’re absolutely right–it takes time and patience to open your eyes to the ways of nature and its beauty. Thank you for the reminder!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. She was a memorable woman, I was very lucky to know her. That image of her climbing a tree faster than I could when she was in her 80s will stay with me as well. 🙂


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