Writing taken from the Forest Therapy Ottawa newsletter from February 2023.
I’m living connected to the earth, close to the clouds, here on the 21st floor.
On their fall migration, the geese passed directly in front of my windows. I watched as they followed the path of the Ottawa River and turned south when they reached the point of land at Britannia Park.
I followed the river too, and have landed in my new home!
In August I wrote about being in between homes, yet held by a sense of home in the embrace of nature. (Find that post here.) Then I bought this small condo overlooking Britannia Park, beside Mud Lake, a 5-minute walk to the Ottawa River, and moved in November.
Being so close to the sky, I decided to keep some stones close at hand to help me stay connected to the ground. I placed them along my windowsill.
I caught my breath every time I looked out the window at the changing face of the sky and the many moods of the river.
But when I looked at the scene inside, the boxes to unpack, paintings to hang, paint colours to choose, I felt… tired and a bit overwhelmed…
So I decided to leave some unpacking and painting for later, and to focus on landing on this patch of earth. To not only admire the beauty through my windows, but to get outside more and be fully present when I was out there.
I’d been feeling pretty impatient with my dog, Amber, when we were out walking and she wanted to stop and sniff. Often. I had wanted her to hurry so I could get back to my to-do list. Then I realized she was my guide! So I shifted. I let her take her time, while I looked around and brought my attention to the place where I stood, to the feeling of connection with the ground under my feet. When I did that, I noticed my shoulders relax and felt the stress drop.
I started pausing to pay my respects to the biggest, oldest trees along the shoreline. Found tucked-away spots to practice my Four Directions Movement Prayer. Noticed the changing angles of light as the days got shorter. And in the morning of the December full moon, I caught this glorious moment when the moon was setting while the rising sun brought a glow to the opposite shore of the river.
After the big December winds, I gathered fallen pine branches and brought them inside for Christmas decorations. And in so many ways, so much of what I found outside has brought a brighter feeling to the process of getting settled inside.
I’m giving myself time to create a cozy nest here on the 21st floor. And soon I’ll invite the neighbours in. Meanwhile I’ve been meeting my more-than-human neighbours, and growing roots in these lands that hold this nest. That feels right. That feels like home.
Connecting with Nature never fails to bring me new gifts and insights. Here's a story from the past weekend...
I pulled back from the roar of the rapids on the Ottawa River Saturday morning. I almost wanted to run away!
When I arrived at the river’s shore, the speed and turbulence of the spring flow set off a churning and tumult within me. It echoed a feeling I’d been carrying all week.
In the bursting energy of springtime, I sometimes feel like I’m being carried on a rush of adrenaline as I move ahead with plans and projects. And, there by the river, it felt too fast, too urgent. I wanted to turn and pull away, to immediately quiet my inner “rapids”.
But (hello!) I reminded myself that I know how to move from stress mode to inner calm. (That’s some of the guidance I offer on my walks!) So I stayed there, in the place where my buttons were being pushed.
I closed my eyes … slowed my breathing … focused on the songs of the birds nearby … let the roar of the river recede. Within a few breaths I felt my weight shift, sensed the ground holding me steady, and felt a quiet within.
Quiet enough that I could listen to the story of that internal churning and turn towards it with curiosity.
As I listened, I recalled times of running rapids on canoe trips. I remembered my adrenaline surging as soon as we could hear the rapids, then the intensity and focus on each swift second of time, paddling in sync with my canoe partner to get through safely – or else get dumped into the turbulence.
And I remembered, once we were through the rapids, taking the time to “eddy out.” An eddy is where some water peels off the edges of the fast current and creates a place of calm by the shore. That water then drifts slowly upstream before returning to the channel. In the roller coaster of a whitewater river, we pause in an eddy to catch our breath, get our bearings and secure our gear, before turning to the next challenge.
I got thinking about what I’m carrying in my canoe now. Hard things like the recent deaths of two people dear to me, and a sudden decline in my mother’s health, and wonderful things like getting ready for the launch of a book with my writing in it (see below). No single thing is “huge”, but they’re stacked up and a bit unbalanced. Maybe I get anxious because I worry about getting swamped and losing something important.
That morning, the voice of the river reminded me to pay attention to the fast current, and the energy it requires to navigate it and keep the load afloat. I was reminded that I can eddy out when needed, to bail water, re-balance the load and catch my breath!
Later that day I noticed the calm of the floodwaters that had overflowed from the river. Have you seen how the extra water finds the low places, and rests there? Ah, another way that nature releases the pressure valve!
So much wisdom awaits when we can get quiet and listen with curiosity. There will always be rapids in the seasons of our lives. When they feel like too much, we can find ways to eddy out; to find the low-lying quiet places. And rest.
I warmly invite you to join me on a guided walk, to discover ways to your place of rest and calm listening, whatever you may be carrying in your canoe.
Andrea Prazmowski is the human being connected with Forest Therapy Ottawa, doing her best to listen to the voices of the forest and shoreline, sky and earth, who guide her guiding and her writing.