Hope springs eternal

I’ve always loved the story of Pandora’s box.  If it’s not one you’ve heard, it goes something like this… 

Back in the day there were two brothers, Prometheus, whose name means ‘forethinker’ or think first, and Epimetheus, whose name means ‘hindsight’, or think later.  Despite being given many earthly gifts by the Gods, they wanted fire for mankind, so stole it from the heavens in the hollow of an elder branch.  Who can blame them I guess?  In punishment Zeus had Prometheus tied to a rock with his liver eaten daily by an eagle.  To get back at man for accepting it, the first woman was sent to Earth, bestowed with beauty, wisdom and a host of other marvellous things.  Despite warnings from his brother about accepting presents from the Gods, Epimetheus just could not resist and took her for his wife.  This woman carried with her a special box and went by the name of Pandora, which means ‘all gifts’, a bit of a sick joke I think, considering that the ‘gifts’ were rather grim.  Epimetheus was given the only key to the box, and they were commanded never to open it, which obviously made them want to do so even more.  When they did, many the evils of the world flew out, greed, hatred, envy, war, things we are all too familiar with today.  Trying to slam the door shut, all that was left in the bottom of the box was hope.

Now a quick side-line here.  Some stories tell you it was Pandora who opened the box out of curiosity, others tell you it was Epimetheus who thinks later, more say that the key was a symbol of the phallus and Pandoras box was – well, I’m sure you can work that one out for yourselves.  I like to think it was a joint effort, woman have been blamed for too many of the world’s problems, ever since Eve supposedly took a bite of the forbidden fruit, getting everyone kicked out of Eden.

But this is not a lesson in theology.  It’s about hope.

‘Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness’.  Desmond Tutu

In psychological terms, this is more a description of optimism than hope, the belief that things will work out, despite adversity.  Hope, whilst linked, has an active component, where a person has the desire to achieve certain goals and the belief that there are many ways to do this (for more on agency and pathway thinking, see Snyder, 2002).  Turns out both are good for your health, improving self-esteem, resilience, positive emotion and much more.

Being optimistic in todays world is not always easy, but research shows that it can be improved by appreciating beauty, and there is no shortage of that in the natural world.  So here are three things you can do right now to see that the world is still beautiful, and with any luck, build your optimism at the same time:

  • Bless the growth around you.  This doesn’t have to be a religious blessing, it just means noticing new growth and being thankful for it.  In spring there loads of opportunities to do this, in the seedlings you may have planted, in the shoots that are starting to emerge from the warming woodland soil, in the swelling buds on the trees, or the flowers that increase daily, even in the weeds that push their way through the cracks in the concrete of the inner city.  We all must start somewhere.
  • Find gratitude for the light.  As we move towards spring in the Northern hemisphere, the sun appears higher in the sky, setting slightly more north every day.  After a long winter it couldn’t be more welcome, so make it part of your life to appreciate it, wherever it breaks through the clouds, reflects on leaves, or creates shadows on walls.
  • Take a daily photograph.   There is something about taking the time to find a scene of something beautiful to photograph.  It may take a whole day or just a brief moment, where you intentionally stop, see beauty and honour it in film (well pixels these days I guess).  Looking at images of nature can boost your mood too, so you can save the beautiful things to look at when you need a little pick-me-up later.

If you want to receive short (we know you’re busy) seasonal reminders on connecting with nature, sign up to our newsletter and get 20-page A beginners guide to using herbs completely free.  This will introduce you to some easy to grow or forage plants, with simple recipes for you to try, in the kitchen, bathroom and medicine cabinet.  

But most importantly, do what you can to get a daily dose of nature, no matter how short, and please, when doing so, do it with the respect it deserves.

Solid Ground

Amongst other things I write.

I write for people who love nature, or for those who want to love it. For people who value wellness of themselves, others and the Earth equally. Who search for happiness more than money. And who understand that, amidst all the problems of the world, we are still lucky to be here.

I write so people get up in the morning, open the curtains, take a deep breath and feel glad to be alive.

I write to further my knowledge, to build my own wonder of nature daily and to make me pay attention to its beauty.

But most of all, I write because I love it.

So here’s my manifesto, a pledge to you as a nature lover and valued reader:

  • Nature is for everyone and my work has and will always reflect this. For people to love, respect and care for their world, wherever they live, it must be accessible to all, in whatever varied form necessary.
  • Nature is magical and alive, a perfectly designed living system that we are part of. If my writing ever fails to convey the wonderment I feel everyday when I step outside, then I have gone chronically wrong. Please remind me.
  • Being present is key. My work will always aim to encourage this, to enable us all to begin reading the book of nature.
  • I am in love with the natural world but I also value scientific evidence. My writing will often make up-to-date research easily accessible – without the jargon.
  • Sometimes its good to just be. Sometimes we need something to do. There will always be a combination of both in my work.
  • Ultimately I love nature because its beautiful. I will always try to show this, whether through the tiny detail of a seed head to the vastness of the ocean. I want you to take a sigh of relief every time you turn the page, even if you are tucked up in bed in the depth of winter.

The Journey Begins

People often ask me where my love of nature began.  Truth is it didn’t begin anywhere, it’s just the way it has always been.  An innate need to be part of the world we inhabit, to revel in its beauty, to understand its systems and to interact with the plants and animals we share it with.

I wonder where the connection began for you, or if like me, you don’t really know.  Either way, I’m glad it found us.

Welcome to Into the Woods, we are a British company based in the North of England offering a range of outdoor experiences in beautiful places across the UK.  Our aim is to support a re-connect with nature to increase wellbeing, share skills, knowledge and passion for the outdoors, whatever your age, ability or social circumstances.

On these pages you will find activities, events, resources and ideas, as we walk together on this beautiful Earth.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.  Ralph Waldo Emmerson