Ikeep telling myself we are going Bushwalking, with a capital B, this weekend, and then we don’t. Bushwalking is how we best experience Nature with a capital N. It involves hardboiling eggs, buying wholemeal rolls, packing a knife, nuts, water, salt for leeches and tweezers for ticks, and heading off on a two-hour drive to the Bush with our Boots, walking all day and then driving home.
We often go to Binna Burra, on the Lamington Plateau, 75km south of Brisbane, a place I first visited in my troubled teens. The rainforest landscape seemed to reflect my chaotic mind, all the while doing its healing work. That work is hard to quantify. It’s something to do with the way light comes through the tree canopy and unexpectedly finds a red berry to illuminate. It’s the sense of being cool even on the hottest day, chilly in the winter months.
Once I saw a dingo, 20 metres from the path, just standing there, looking at me calmly. There are rare treasures you can hope to come upon: the bower bird with his little box of blue, the lyrebird that sounds like all the other birds in a string of song, and the shy noisy pitta I always pretend to have seen. Something is always happening, and yet, when I go there, like an old friend, nothing of the key character has changed.
Theories about why nature restores us to health include the notion that its particular chaos might have a pattern we recognise, which soothes. This might also be why shopping centres, which are chaotic but unnatural, drive me insane. Hospital patients recovering from gall bladder surgery – a standard procedure with a predictable recovery – showed differences if nature was in the mix. Those who looked out a window at trees complained less, needed less pain relief and got better faster. They were four times better off than brick wall viewers.
When I spend time in nature, I am healed in small ways. Still, we don’t have time for a capital N whole day at the moment. But we can walk up the hill to the fig tree our Canadian friend showed us was so easily climbable. In our back yard are currawongs, and at the close of a late winter day their song is so sweet it always makes me stop and listen.
I can swim in the cold water of the local dam with eels and tiny fish, feel lilies brush my legs, peer into the dark water and wonder. And not far from our house is an eagle’s nest. Here are the eagles, back and forth, tending their coming young.
Nature doesn’t need a capital N. It just is.