For many, the natural world is a source of strength during this time. Whether out on the trails or in your own backyard, nature helps many of us recharge and find the strength needed to face difficult truths and keep fighting for change. For others, the outdoors has never been a safe or accessible space. Many people don’t have access to parks. Many don’t have the money to drive to scenic areas. Many don’t feel safe or represented in the world of outdoor recreation.
We want to know: how have you been connecting with nature during this time? Has it been a positive or negative experience for you? Have you noticed things you hadn’t noticed before? We invite you to submit your story as part of our new storytelling project! We’ll be sharing these stories on our social media page and on our website. We hope these stories will help us reflect, share, and come together. You can share your story here!
For me, walking in Forest Park has helped me connect to the natural world. The other day, I was walking along, and I glanced over my shoulder just in time to see a Great Blue Heron land in the middle of the trail. He was enormous. I’d seen Great Blue Herons before, but never that close. He walked down to the creek–his head bobbing, dinosaur-like–and I followed him, inching closer and closer, until I could see into his yellow eye. He gazed back, as docile as the water beneath him. After a while he snapped his beak, shook his head, and began to wade upstream. I watched until I couldn’t see him anymore–until he disappeared from view, down amongst the nettle and the touch-me-nots that lined the stream.
I felt lucky to have been visited by this magnificent bird. But I also remembered that not everyone could have moments like this. I thought of Christian Cooper, the Black man who was out bird watching in Central Park, and had the police called on him by a white woman. She lied and said he was threatening her when he had only asked her to keep her dog on its leash. This is not an uncommon experience for Black people. Racism against Black people is woven into every part of our society, and outdoor recreation is no exception.
And it’s not uncommon for other communities of color to feel like they don’t fit into the world of outdoor recreation. In my own half-El Salvadorian family, my relatives aren’t particularly comfortable in the outdoors. My abuela has said she will never go camping, even if you paid her a million dollars, and my tíos don’t really see the appeal of hiking. They didn’t grow up with it. In El Salvador, nature was a place where you lived and worked, not a place where you hiked or camped for fun. And, here in the U.S., second generation Latinos like me don’t see many people from their own culture out on the trail. That’s starting to change, but there’s still a long way to go.
There’s so much to think about when it comes to the ways we connect with nature and how we can make the outdoors more accessible for everyone. That’s my story. What’s yours? We hope you’ll share your story with us! Your story can be anywhere from one sentence to a few paragraphs long. It can be about how you’ve found solace in nature over the past few months, or how you’ve been recognizing your privilege in the outdoors, or how nature has shaped who you are, or maybe how your perspective on your place in nature has changed. Whatever your story is, we look forward to reading it, and sharing these stories as we all continue to grow, learn, and improve, and recharge for all the work that is still to be done.