Over the last few years, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process of converting myself from a competent personal mountaineer into someone capable of guiding others safely round the mountain environment and enhancing their experience as we journey together.
I’ve always loved being up in the high mountains, whether it’s on a balmy day in the height of summer, or battling through a blizzard to tag a summit in the depths of winter. I find camping or bivvying up amongst the high places ‘restores my soul’ in a way that few other experiences have ever been capable of, and I’ve always appreciated being able to immerse myself in the tranquil beauty that surrounds you away in the wild places of Scotland and beyond.
However, as I’ve slowly developed my understanding of the environment I’m now privileged to work in, I’ve come to realise that for many years I’ve neglected the beauty that surrounds me in the more ‘mundane’ surroundings that I call home. Studying for my Summer ML, in particular, has opened my eyes to the tiny wonders under my feet as I go about my daily business, and I’ve become much more mindful and appreciative of the sometimes stunning display of beauty right at my front door, recognising individual plants and wildflowers, rather than subconsciously labelling them all as ‘weeds’ somewhere in the back of my mind. As a long term youth worker, I’ve known for years about the power of language to shape and limit our relationships with people, but I’ve only recently come to reflect on how the same phenomenon applies to the way we interact with our natural environment. Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote that “The limits of my language means the limits of my world” , and I’ve found that the relatively simple process of learning the names of a range of wildflowers, mosses and lichens has begun to nurture a more appreciative attitude towards not just those plants I can recognise, but the wider, fascinating ecosystem we’re all part of.
The list of reasons why it’s good to spend time outdoors is growing rapidly these days, and I’m very much behind the idea that we need to get young people outside with their hands in the dirt having fun, but my own little adventure over the last couple of years has also convinced me that I need to ensure that my activities as an outdoor professional needs to reflect my own desire not to unduly damage the ecosystem we inhabit, and also to ensure that it seeks to cultivate an appreciation for the environment not just when we’re in the back of beyond, but also when they step out of their own door in the morning: for it to truly be a resource for our own wellbeing, we first need to recognise it as “home”.
These are just a few pictures from yesterday’s dog walk around our house – how many flowers can you recognise?