This past year has been an exceptional one for many of us, full of uncertainties and deep reflections. Some have experienced loss while others have found new opportunities and beginnings. Despite all of this, there seems to be a hopefulness in the air with these first few days of spring. Just as nature begins to come back to life after a long, quiet winter, we feel the same sensations within ourselves as well. This phenomena is acknowledged and explained through the Eastern philosophy of the Five Elements.
In Chinese Medicine, the Five Elements are Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood. Although these elements exist in nature, they are recognized within us as well. As Dianne Connelly writes in her book, Traditional Acupuncture: The Law of the Five Elements, "We are a replica of the universe passing from season to season in a natural unending cycle of life."
The Spring season is associated with the Wood Element and just a few days ago, on March 20th, we celebrated the Equinox signifying the beginning of Spring, a day where day and night are of nearly equal length. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, we will now experience increasingly longer days until we reach the peak on June 20th, the Summer Solstice, or the longest day of the year in terms of sunlight.
Many are familiar with the Yin-Yang sign; which represents the two opposing forces in nature that contain a seed of the other. The two are interdependent and one cannot exist without the other: the only reason we can recognize light is because we know the dark, and vice versa. Yang is associated with the sun while Yin is associated with the moon; therefore, spring is a time of rising yang.
Spring is a time of beginning and rebirth; the Earth flourishes as new seedlings come to life and animals return whether from migration or from hibernation. The most relatable way to explain the Wood element is to look to a tree: a tree is rooted into the Earth, yet also reaches it branches up towards the Heavens. If it is healthy, Wood can be flexible, as it yields to bending and the wind, yet also strong and durable.
Although I usually spend a lot of my free time in nature hiking, I don't always take the time to wander or get lost in nature like I used to. Hiking for me has become more of expedition to reach a specific destination, climb a certain mountain, or complete a certain amount of mileage. Although these are all good things, I was not always like this. I used to visit the woods to wander and visit places I felt called to, where I would sit, observe, listen, and sometimes journal.
With the recent pandemic, I have begun to re-evaluate my direction, lifestyle, and choices in many ways. One of which has been to reconsider my relationship with nature. I have felt the need to return to a deeper appreciation of the Earth, to enjoy and explore it, even in the littlest of ways. I was fortunate enough to practice this just a couple of days after the Equinox, when I went to explore a small wildlife preserve just a block from where I am currently living and walk down to one of the local rivers. I have lived in this place for almost a year, yet had no idea this spot was so close by. It humbled me to discover this and helped me to remember that connecting with nature does not need to be an all-day event or trek into the woods. The pictures is this post are the ones I took while on my walk.
I think is is important to remember to connect to nature in any way that fits into your lifestyle, it does not have to be anything fancy, physically demanding, or take much of your time. Even just taking a moment to pause, take a deep breath, and gaze out your window is enough. In a society where we have become more and more integrated with technology, I believe reconnecting with nature in these ways can be incredibly helpful for maintaining some peace of mind. If you are feeling especially adventurous, search for any walking trails or preserves nearby your home. You never know what you might find in your own backyard!