For the next 12 weeks I’d like to make a few suggestions as to how you can enjoy the summer this year and reconnect with nature – just suggestions, no pressure, interpret as you feel works for you…
#1 Wake Up for the Sunrise or Stay Up for the Sunset
I’m not a morning person. For as long as I can remember, hearing that alarm go off is one of the things that gets deep inside my inner grump. I already know how it will go; the alarm goes off, I snooze it, I snooze again and again and again, at some point the child in me as this point, chooses to rebel and snooze for longer….
BUT, in the past 12 months I have discovered the joy of getting up and waking with the world at sunrise. I need to give partial credit for this to a lovely lady called Julie. Julie, I met during my Forest Therapy Guide training at the start of 2020. Once we reached the spring last year and were well and truly fed up with lockdown already, she mentioned she took time to go into the woods before dawn. Her aim was to try and be there before the first bird started singing and she could also catch the sunrise – an amazing idea and this is where I started.
Firstly, we need to understand what time sunrise is! I check online the night before and every time have to clarify with a more sensible adult than me what time will the sun be up? So, ‘waking up for sunrise rule 1’, the time that Google tells you sunrise is, let’s say 04:20 – that’s the time it starts to rise so you still have plenty of time to still get out there and be comfy. However, as I have learnt this year if you are up and out before the sun starts to rise you can experience a beautiful dawn as a bonus. So, either way, you’re getting up early.
Rule 2 – take a cuppa, or water and maybe a banana (other snacks are allowed.) It adds to the experience, sipping away as the sun rises and the golden colours reach across the sky and just helps with the whole waking up in general.
On the day, it’s far too early in the morning and the alarm goes off and I groan, maybe sneak another 5 minutes but then I force myself to go through the motions and get dressed, probably drag a hat on, get a cup of warm water and head outside. From the minute the door opens, it’s there, the sound of the world waking up. Everything sounds different early in the morning, I don’t know if it’s the mist clinging low to the ground that makes it sound softer, or just the complete and utter silence in the deeper corners of nature that makes the difference – something does anyway and it probably doesn’t matter what. Our garden gate is really noisy, no one can sneak inside or outside without us or the dogs noticing, but even that clang of the gate sounds different in the early hours, it echos. I wander across the lawn and head to a clearing on the edge of the trees that looks out across the river valley, here I can sit…and wait.
As a gold band appears along the ridge of the hill’s opposite me, sheep graze in the fields and the birds are already singing their hearts out. The trees are filled with the sound of the usual suspects; Song Thrush, Blackbird, Robin and Chaffinch and the whole time I start to centralise my breathing. Focusing on the in and the out, as I breathe in through my nose, I close my eyes, opening them on the long exhale and seeing what is in front of me for the first time.
That’s it, all there is to watching a sunrise…
So far this year, some of the most beautiful Forest Bathing Sessions have been those at sunrise. We get to the lochside just before sunrise, just as the deep purples and oranges of dawn are spreading across the sky. I’ll walk our route before meeting guests and it’s always so still, Song Thrushes sing in the trees and mist gently rolls across the water, enveloping the occasional goose. I encourage the group to face the dawn and sunrise as we start with a ‘Pleasures of Presence’ meditation and begin our nature connection.
If early mornings are really not your thing, then sunset brings its own magic at the end of the day. Often, I can look out the window and the sunset is just there, like someone switched it on. Maybe this is just because my day is already there and I don’t have that same awakening as with a sunrise. Either way it doesn’t matter, it’s there and so am I – it’s also worth remembering that whether I am there or not, the sun will always rise and set!
A sunset signals the quietening of the day rather than the awakening, there will still be a Robin, Blackbird or Song Thrush singing and the sounds of birds heading to roost. If you are lucky there may be bats starting their evening buffet, flying close overhead, silently and as everything turns dark around us, there will be swatches of vibrant orange and purple in the sky, peaking from behind branches or low over the hills. Then after a time, all will go dark.
Take a few moments tonight and look for the sunset…