Our natural spaces are sacred spaces, especially now.
Getting outside to breathe fresh air, see the sunset, hear the bird calls — these can be centering experiences and are vital to overall mental well being.
For Jennifer Blender, who runs the Parent and Child Hiking Group in Guelph, the COVID-19 pandemic has created an opportunity for many families to reflect, to pause and to take notice of the natural world.
“I remember when the pandemic started, seeing so many families out for walks together. I remember thinking, I hope this doesn’t go away,” Blender said.
The Parent and Child Hiking Group is for those who are naturally curious, for children and parents and offers healthy activities outdoors.
Hiking promotes exploration and learning while instilling a love and respect for nature.
“People really are starting to see what’s around them. There is such a lack of connection, to each other and to our environment. It’s proven that these connections promote longevity, people live longer when connected to each other and to nature. We are animals. We need that social connection but also connection with nature,” Blender says.
This sense of disconnection from the natural world is not surprising. Even prior to COVID-19 lockdowns, many people were spending 90 per cent of their time indoors.
“I know we are all doing our best and I’m sure that the massive screen time kids are getting is because of pressures at work and at home. It’s a distraction. But now, people really are taking the time to go outside and spend time together,” says Blender.
When the pandemic hit, Parent and Child hikes were put on hold until the government announced an increase in social group numbers up to 10.
“I was so happy to restart. But I did make sure to keep in touch with many of the parents throughout. But as soon as that announcement came out, I was on-line, 10 minutes later,” Blender said.
“Just before March Break, I had a whole year of hikes planned. So, I still have that template and people are so happy to get back to it. And everyone wanted to honour the system, to stay safe and social distance. I was worried about the kids social distancing at first, but this wasn’t a challenge at all. Everyone was just so happy to see each other again. And we have had new people since, it’s been so great.”