Reflections from getting outside in Algonquin Park.

Photo from Karissa Chandrakate.

Photo from Karissa Chandrakate.

Looking at nature all around us, we cannot help but marvel at its raw beauty and rhythm.  There’s just something about nature that puts me into an immediate state of tranquility. It's also why I went on my first 4-day portage trip in Algonquin Park this spring.

A portage is a canoe trip which involves carrying your canoe and belongings over land. I was a little apprehensive at first, knowing that the trip was happening in the middle of the frosty spring. Despite the cold nights and non-existent showers, I was happy I made the decision to attend.  

The days were spent lazily paddling through the sometimes glassy, sometimes windy lake. Canoeing gave me a real sense of what it was like to live as one with the land, water and sky. Nights were spent laughing and sharing stories around the campfire, while the eerie albeit peaceful sound of the loon echoed in the distance.

Drinking water consisted of heating lake water, and a shower meant a courageous dive into the cold lake (which I adamantly refused to do). The loons made it look too easy; the way they continuously dived into the frigid water to hunt for food. Heating meant gathering dry wood from the forest, and toilets required no flushing. Our beds consisted of our sleeping bags and tents nestled atop a soft cushion of white pine needles, blanketed by a silhouette of trees and the Milky Way.

Time was of no importance, and the only clock available was the rising and setting sun. Slowly all my worries began to dissolve as I was being cradled by the land, trees and infinite sky.  Canoeing on the lake offered some moments of introspection for me. While my paddle painted onto reflective watery canvas, I find myself reminiscing about my life back in the city.

There is no question that Earth has been a very giving planet. Everything humans have needed to survive, and thrive, was provided by the natural world around us: food, water, medicine, materials for shelter, and even natural cycles such as climate and nutrients. Yet we have become so disconnected from the natural world that it’s easy to forget that nature remains as giving as ever, even as it vanishes from us. My life has often led me into nature, and each time I felt childlike comfort and happiness when I was submerged in it.

Here, I was living comfortably in the wilderness, not missing my kitchen, hot running water, or sanitized bedroom. It seems that many city dwellers long to reconnect with the nature, yet we choose to remain in the concrete jungle. I’ve begun to realize that being in the city doesn’t mean we have to be isolated from nature - as long as we are aware of the nature around us.

Depending on where you live, there may be hiking trails or forests that you can venture off into for mental relief and spiritual gain. Even planting your own vegetable garden and taking care of it has therapeutic purposes, and often reminds us that we are dependent on nature and her selfless services. Instead of staring at advertisements, stare at the clouds. Instead of walking on the sidewalk, take a leap onto the grass.

We are a part of nature, constantly immersed in it and glued to it. By channeling our awareness to the nature that’s around us, it can help us to rediscover the connection that was once lost. Then, when given the chance, go on a portage or camping trip! As we’ve turned our backs on nature we’ve lost our natural source of happiness. By turning our faces back toward the sun, we can find lasting happiness and more.  

Your deepest roots are in nature. No matter who you are, where you live, or what kind of life you lead, you remain irrevocably linked with the rest of creation.
— Charles Cook