Reconnecting with the Natural World and a Younger Me

reconnecting with nature

By Troy Headrick

I had a strange upbringing.  Up until the age of, say, five or six, I lived in urban areas being raised by a father and mother who didn’t get along very well.  Then, suddenly, a year or so before starting first grade, my parents found that they no longer wanted to be married, so they divorced and I was sent to live with my maternal grandparents who were country folks.  In fact, my grandfather was a real-life cowboy and my grandmother was a Jill-of-all-trades, the type who could assist her husband wrangle cows in the pasture and then come inside and fix the clothes washer or television or whatever household machine might be ailing and in need of a bit of repair.

As soon as I moved in with my mother’s father and mother, I became something of a cowboy-in-training.  I got woken up early, about the time the sun was about to peek over the horizon in the east, and would be fed a hearty breakfast.  After that, I’d slip into my clothes and then head outside to help my grandfather (I called him “Pawpaw”) do the chores.  In the fall and winter, the air was crisp and frosty and I’d bundle up.  During the spring and summer, the conditions, even at that early hour, were humid and warm—a warning of much harsher temperatures to come a bit later in the day—and I’d dress in jeans, boots, a hat, and a short-sleeved shirt.

I learned to milk cows, feed animals, carry bales of hay, herd sheep, saddles horses, and repair downed fences—all these things done in the great outdoors under a big, blue Texas sky.  I learned to watch for snakes and to study the clouds so that I might become skilled at meteorology—people in Texas understand the value of rainfall and such.  I learned what plants bloomed and when and whether or not, based upon how the winter and fall had gone, there’d be a good crop of pecans.  (Texas certainly has to be the pecan capital of the world.)

Eventually, my parents reconciled, remarried, and started homesteading just up the road from my grandparents’ ranch.  So, as a result, for years and years, I lived outside, in open spaces, until my skin grew perpetually tanned and I felt more “at home” outside the home than I did inside its four walls.

Looking back on my life, I’d say that I grew up alternating between being at one with nature and then somewhat estranged from it.  After my youth, I went off to the city and studied at universities.  During that period, I spent my time inside—in classrooms, in libraries, in books, in quiet, well-lit places suited for studying.  Then, years later, when I left the United States and lived a life without automobiles, I reconnected with the outside as I moved through time and space entirely on foot.

I’m writing about all this because I’ve decided—you can call this a New Year’s Resolution if you’d like—to become a bit of a boy again by taking steps to reconnect with the natural world.  I’ve already started by spending more time out of doors.  I’ve even noticed that my face has begun to tan a bit though it’s winter in Texas.  (Winters, here, are never really harsh enough to drive a person indoors for any extended length of time, so I should be able to hang on to this color until springtime arrives.)

Here are some of the things I’ve learned about myself having lived a life more connected with nature during some periods and less during others:

  • My thoughts expand under an open sky and are apt to contract when there’s a ceiling just overhead;
  • I can eat like a horse when I’ve been outside and engaged in some physical activity; the physical act of eating is also much more enjoyable when I have “earned” the right to eat;
  • I breathe more easily and more deeply when I’ve been outside for an extended period of time and more tentatively and shallowly while inside;
  • Worries dissipate outdoors and then reconstitute themselves when I come inside;
  • I am more apt to notice things around me and am able to really concentrate on my surroundings while walking in a lovely, natural setting; while inside, there are many things that distract and irritate me;
  • I forget my age when I am out of doors; I feel older when I come inside and sit in a chair.

Is there some thing or some activity you’d like to reconnect with?  If so, I’d love to hear what this thing or activity is and how this reconnecting can take you back in time when you were a different (and maybe better?) person.

Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.


44 thoughts on “Reconnecting with the Natural World and a Younger Me

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the subject. There’s just something very liberating about being in a wide open space with nothing but the enormous, blue sky overhead!

    1. I remember all the bonding I was able to do with my grandfather while we worked outside together. You’ll form a strong attachment with your son and be able to teach him about nature at the same time. Wonderful! Thanks for commenting.

  1. I love being outdoors! A quick visit to my nearby beach can instantly alter my mood and make life a little more palatable or even sweeter. One thing I’d like to revive from childhood or my younger years is just being with my time. Stop being so scheduled and embrace spontaneity and wonder. If I allow her, my daughter with her brilliant imagination and keen observations can take me there. But often times the call of the to do list wins out. I want to remember what’s more valuable in life. Moments, little discoveries not necessarily having the laundry done.

    1. I’m totally with you on the whole spontaneity thing! I’d like be able to be less regimented in my life. I sometimes feel like I’m being turned into a little soldier as I march away to this duty and then march away to that one. I think we have to get a little older before we gain the courage and wisdom to take more control of our lives and how we use our precious time. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

    1. I totally agree. I know I especially feel at home on large bodies of water or out on prairies where one feels able to look off into infinite space. How about you? What sort of natural spaces are you especially drawn to?

  2. I tell you what, (a previous short term Texan and long term Hank Hill fan😁) that is the best thing I’ve read in a LONG time. If you knew me you’d know I don’t say such things very often, but you have a great way with words. Thanks for reading my blog post and keep up the good writing!

    1. Thank you for the kind words. I will continue to read your blog and I look forward to exchanging thoughts with you here, in the comments section of those things I pen for PO.

  3. Wow I love this. I completely agree with you too. Being outside makes me feel like a much calmer, relaxed person. I hope you get a chance to spend more time outdoors.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement. I get home from work just as the sun is beginning its descent and night is coming on strong. Dusk is one of my favorite times of day and i plan to spend lots of time sitting outside or walking in the near-darkness. Thank you for commenting and I hope you get to get outside as often as you’d like!

  4. I’m the same way, although I’ve never really left the outdoors, going downtown only when I need to!
    My plan for this year, is to spend even more time outside – getting back to myself, if you will. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Isn’t it interesting how we can find ourselves or reconnect with some long-lost part of ourselves by getting out into big spaces and beautiful natural places!? Thank you very much for sharing your story with me (us).

    1. Great line: “we are all designed to be solar powered.” I certainly agree. And we are all designed to be wind-powered too! Thanks so much for reading my piece and commenting.

  5. Love this Troy! I really agree with your points you made about being outside… life is just simply better outdoors. Although it’s a brutal winter here in Utah, I try to get outside on a sunny day to enjoy some fresh air.

    1. I’ve lived in very cold places myself over the years. There’s something really amazing about getting outside on a very cold but sunny day! Like I said, being outside is like taking the very best medicine. Take care and thanks for reading and commenting.

  6. Love this! I always find myself going to the local park (Prospect Park here in Brooklyn, NY) when I’m in an off bood/bad headspace. It’s so healing! My goal for this year is to share more anecdotes and info about how healing nature is and why we really need to spend more time outdoors.

    1. Great! Will you be sharing those anecdotes on your blog? I’ll make sure to check it out. Can I get to it by clicking on your profile pic above? I’ll look for your writing. I like that you visit parks. Back when I was an international traveler, I always made sure to find the largest, most beautiful park in every foreign city I visited. I just love parks. I’d have to say that Vondel Park in Amsterdam is my all-time favorite. Thanks for the comment.

  7. I like “My thoughts expand under an open sky”. I spent half of my childhood in a city and half camping near the lake where my parents have now built a cabin. I called that my “happy place” in a blog entry last fall. Thanks for your musings. I like the idea of living more in nature; it also clears my thoughts and lightens my mood.

    1. I need to check out some of your most recent writings. Even though I really like being in rural places, I think it’s valuable that we also spend time in big cities. Experiencing the rural and the urban gives us a complete experience and helps us develop flexibility and adaptability. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

  8. Hm… There are two things I did when I was younger that I gave up somewhere along the way:
    1. writing; and
    2. drawing.

    I’ve come back to writing and, in doing so, I feel I’ve come back to myself.

    I wonder what would happen if I tried my hand with a pencil again, instead of just a pen???

    1. Like you, I was an artist as a child and actually have had periods in my life when I showed art in galleries and sold pieces to collectors. I think you owe it to yourself to try art again. Doing so would not only be good for your creative self but it might help you get in touch with your younger self too. I think I’m going to need to check out your blog! Thanks for sharing your story.

      1. Ooo, yes, do come visit my blog!

        I’m not sure I would have been considered an artist. LOL. But I think I’d like to get into cartoonish style drawing.

  9. I love this. I recently had the pleasure of going out to where I could see the stars at night and not hear sirens all the time. 4 days of calm and bliss. If anything, it’s pushing me more towards getting out of the city, and making the effort to find a place that fits my needs better. The constant noise of people, traffic, and so on are a drain. At the same time, I have to be somewhat practical in considering location for medical care and that pesky thing about bringing income in. I know it will resolve itself in due time. In the interim, i’m working on decluttering (not going full Kondo!) my spaces so that I feel less encumbered by visual distractions.
    Many people thrive and feed off a social and compact community in which they are constantly in touch with others, or they feel they are not alone. Extroverts, I suppose. I’m glad they have places to go.

    1. Hey, Liz, it’s nice to hear from you again. My wife and I are also contemplating making some big changes in our lives. I’m thinking that leaving the US might be really good for us. I feel overwhelmed and overworked and overstressed here. Like you, I’ve gone through periods where I felt like I need to downsize. “Decluttering” is a really good word. Our lives get so cluttered! I thank you so much for reading and sharing your story.

  10. Wow ! Who could expect that a divorce would bring a healthy life bonded with Nature, to the child ? And then with reconciliation of parents, that divorce must have been a boon

    1. Hi, Oneiridescent. You know, it’s interesting, but I had never thought of my parents’ divorce in such a positive way until your comment. Certainly, the divorce gave me an opportunity to spend a significant portion of my formative years outside and living with some really wonderfully loving people who taught me so many valuable lessons. Thanks for pointing that out and thanks for the great comment.

      1. Seems that your upbringing has effects of both early countryside and later cities. With best of both worlds, and added expat experiences, then you have powers more than normal. Wonder, what superhero your children could be, once you pass on yours !

        Sometimes an event can affect another one, centuries later, through successors. As humans of limited life span and bounded social impact, we may find it beyond our regular perceptions, but as God, He would be aware of all intricacies how the world weaves its path through time. I merely try to hack to take a peek into that fabric of reality through varying perspectives. I like to write stories of alternate history but usually end up concluding at the same present age, as a probable deduction of evolutionary stages towards a nonterminal destination.

        Hope these words will always give you a third person outlook to all situations and add to more “pointless overthinking” posts. 😀

  11. I throughly enjoyed this post, thank you for sharing. I also feel a heck of a lot better when I spend more time outside than in. We have a cabin on a lake in Central Alberta and its the most beautiful place, the energy is amazing and it takes all your stress and worry away. You just can’t beat fresh air and sunshine, cold blustery days and star filled nights. I’ll take them all. Take care.

    1. Eons ago, back when we human beings we’re just getting started as a species, we lived in nature. That means we are very deeply connected to the natural world in a very visceral and historical way. So many people have talked about feeling “peaceful” and “at home” when they’ve returned to nature in their comments to my piece. Maybe that’s because we came from nature and feel like we’re returning to our original home when we return to it. We are, in fact, “returning home” when we go into nature and live outside. Thanks so much for sharing your story and giving me something to think about.

  12. Maybe it is the way we use the words nature and natural. Somehow I ended up reading your blog after reviewing an old post of mine elsewhere asking the question “Is man part of nature?” I can’t help thinking the answer is Yes! So from this perspective you (we) were never disconnected from nature even if it felt like it.

    Divvying up the universe into natural, unnatural and even supernatural seems to me excessive dualism

    Thanks for your story.

    1. Yes. I don’t like to think in either/or terms. Quite literally, people are made of flesh and blood and will return to the earth as soon as they die and their bodies decay. So, in a sense, we are part of nature and will always be “natural.” I think I’m critical of the fact that people have forgotten this fact and act as if there’s the natural world and the the human world. I mean, if we really realized that we are of and from nature, why are we trashing our land, air, and water? It’s not that we aren’t of nature; it’s that we’re acting as if we aren’t of nature. (Maybe because we are estranged from it or think–in our arrogance–that we have transcended it?) Does that make any sense? By the way, I’m sorry about the lateness of my response. Sometimes I miss that someone has made a comment even though I try to pay close attention. Thanks, though, and I’d like to read your blog because you come across as a very interesting and thoughtful person.

      1. Maybe because we are estranged from it or think–in our arrogance–that we have transcended it

        I must admit I don’t look at this way. I see people of all shapes, sizes, tendencies beliefs etc going about their way. We can imagine them going off in another direction, but could they really have done otherwise?

        I think not.

        As to people having forgotten the fact we are part of nature, I can’t help thinking it is part of dualistic thought that pervades western society. We have not outgrown Abrahamic thought that has dominated western cultures for the last millennium and a half.

        And thanks for your comment on my thoughtfulness.

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