By Alie Mayes, Community Science Education Specialist
You are looking to connect. So, you open your dating app and start scrolling through profiles.
No, no, nope, heck no.
And then, you pause. Something’s different about this one. It reads:
“About Me: Life is all about the connections. I am dynamic, resilient and always seeking balance.
Love Languages: Acts of Service and Quality Time
What I’m Looking For: I’m Looking for a partner who is nurturing, always looking for the ‘awe’ in life and believes age is just a number ;)”.
You swipe right.
Okay, okay– maybe you won’t really find Mother Nature scrolling through the latest dating app, but planning some quality time with nature definitely has its benefits. Time in nature has been shown to reduce blood pressure, lower stress and improve your overall mental health. When was the last time a date did all of this? So, take a chance and plan a date with nature. Below are a few ideas to help you get started.
Wanna grab a bite? Pack up some of your favorite foods and head outside for a picnic. Whether you pick a spot at a state park, local greenspace or even your own backyard (or front yard, patio, balcony, etc.), picnics are an easy way to dine out with nature.
Want your dinner date to be a little more adventurous? Try mushroom foraging. It helps you connect to nature through discovery, observation and food. Learn more about mushroom foraging in Nebraska through a fungi foraging workshop or by getting involved with knowledgeable organizations like the Nebraska Mycological Society. Then check out Nebraskaland’s Recipe Archives to find ways to turn your bounty into a tasty treat.
Get to Know Nature with Trivia
As Jane Goodall said, “Only if we understand, will we care.” Deepen your connection with Mother Nature with Nature Nerd Trivia Night. Hosted statewide by NGPC, these trivia events are a fun way to test your nature knowledge and learn more about the common and obscure. The next Nature Nerd Night Trivia will be hosted statewide Oct. 19. Check the Outdoor Calendar for locations and more information.
Express Yourself Through Art
During his lifetime, Bob Ross created nearly 30,000 paintings, and most of his subjects were on nature. He said, “If painting teaches you nothing else, it teaches you to look at nature with different eyes, it will teach you to see things that have been there all your life, and you have never noticed.”
Express your admiration of nature’s beauty through art, whether sketching your backyard observations in a nature journal, cross-stitching a beautiful Nebraska landscape or participating in our annual Inktober Nebraska Nature Challenge; follow us on Facebook or Instagram in October for more details at @newildlifeeducation. Whatever medium you use to express yourself is not important. What is more important is focusing on your subject – noticing all that Mother Nature has to offer.
Take a Paddle
Nothing is quite as idyllic as paddling on the smooth water of a lake surrounded by picturesque views. Kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddle boards are all great options for getting out on the water. If you are new to the activity, there are programs across the state that allow you to rent or borrow supplies and provide how-to support. There are even programs focused on giving back to nature, such as trash cleanup while kayaking. Visit the Outdoor Calendar to learn about NGPC paddling events near you.
Take Time to Unwind
Sometimes, the best way to connect, or reconnect, is by taking some time to relax and unwind. So, hang your hammock between two trees and watch how the sunlight filters through the leaves; stretch out during outside yoga – bonus points if you incorporate nature-themed poses; lay a blanket in the grass and see what shapes you can find in the clouds; or heck, just enjoy a snooze in the fresh air. However you choose to spend time with nature, the important thing with this date is to take a moment to just breathe. Ahhhhhh, now doesn’t that feel better?
So, it’s official. You are smitten with nature and want to take the next step in your relationship together. Nebraska Master Naturalists might be a great place to start. This program offers participants in-depth training about Nebraska nature and connects them to local, hands-on projects. It also gives participants the opportunity to connect with others in their community who share common interests.
Another way to deepen your connection to nature is through citizen or community science, which speaks to research that involves the public. These inclusive inquiries can require little to no prior experience, such as contributing nature observations to iNaturalist.
iNaturalist is a web and app-based platform that enables participants to upload evidence of observation in the form of images (most common) or audio files. The participants can then utilize the platform’s AI (artificial intelligence) and community of fellow users to identify what they found. All observations uploaded then become part of the iNaturalist database, which can then be used in wildlife research.
If you have a specific interest or passion, there are plenty of projects in Nebraska that focus on everything from birds, to bees, to spotted skunks. Check out the project directory on the Community Scientists of Nebraska Network webpage to learn more.
There are so many great ways to “date” nature, and this is by no means an exhaustive list. The important part of this process is connecting with the natural world around you. And who knows, just like dating in the real world, you might even learn more about yourself along the way.