Growing up in Nigeria, a trip to the village was the highlight of my summer holidays. Life in the village was pure bliss and the closest to nature as it gets. The fresh smell of the morning breeze, roaming in the bushes with no care in the world, chasing after goats while acting out some made-up superhero characters and going to the stream made those memories unforgettable.
Picture: A beautiful view of the harbor in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, Canada
There is something about that simplicity, the people and the food interwoven into those moments that is perfectly captured in Albert Einstein’s quote.
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better - Albert Einstein
My grandparents will tell us mythical tales under the moonlight, and you would forget all the hustle and bustle of the city. Stories that describe life with such wholesomeness and depth. Something about it being less complicated and colourful. There was family, there was so much peace, and everything just felt better.
Being caught up in the cut-throat hustling lifestyle these days can make you forget about the little miracles of everyday life. Simple things like walking on the beach, looking up to see the blue skies on a beautiful day or marveling at the squirrel scavenging for food in the park dustbin, suddenly feel like a luxury when we are surrounded by towering concretes. Our lives have now been programmed to be busy and automated in a way that we are blind to the very way even the newest technology mimics nature. Our moments are swallowed up with endless screen time and gadgets we miss the wonders of the natural world. We forget how much inspiration we can find in nature; we are so busy planning, scheming, saving, and doing everything else but living life itself.
In 2019, I went on a life-changing study journey to Uppsala, Sweden. Sweden has always had a reputation for storied landscapes, architecture and the magic of nature making life so laid back that I did not think twice about hopping on the plane from Lagos to Stockholm. Coming from the fastness of Lagos living to a slower-paced routine at Uppsala brought back those village memories. Existing side by side with nature both in and out of the classroom was something beyond beautiful; it was the purest form of tranquillity all year round.
Picture: Train Tracks at Uppsala, Sweden
The joy of waking up in the morning and opening my window to the calmness of Swedish mornings is something words can never describe. Being close to nature has been so therapeutic considering how difficult the 2020 lockdown was for everyone, even afterward. It felt like some sort of nostalgia or maybe epiphany to have nothing else but nature when everything else stopped. 2020 was that moment of realization that every other thing may not matter in the actual scheme of our existence after all. When everything was grounded to a screeching halt and we had actual people and real conversations, our perspective about life and the simple things were altered. Suddenly, going out became a luxury, we craved hanging out in the parks, we wanted to hike so bad, and the air smelt even better. Yes, in our moment of lockdown despair, we found happiness in the ordinary things, we found clarity just sitting on the balcony and watching the open skies. We found family again sitting by the fire, the moonlight to hear these stories. We could see the flies, and the lizards, hear the birds sing louder and look again to see the trees change through the seasons. In those moments of stillness, no longer caught up in the hustle, stuck with each other, we recognized the value in nature because everything became brighter.
Picture: A blooming Flower somewhere in Uppsala, Sweden
Then in 2021, I moved to Newfoundland, Canada which felt like an extension of Swedish nature. Only this time, it was colder and there were mountains with stretches of roads going up and down at irregular intervals. Living in Sweden, brought me closer to nature in a way that there was no kore going back. I had given up my obsession with loving and living in Lagos. I have a deeper and refined understanding of being in the moment of pure beauty of nature, standing still by the beach under the moonlight, worrying less about what I did not have and appreciating whatever I had left with me in my now. I spend less time being consumed with myself and stuff, heeding nature telling me to stop and breathe. I always strive to keep that positive energy beyond the pandemic to progressively juggle getting a Ph.D., three children, a marriage and myself. In nature, I have found the key to breathing freely again.
Picture: A mini waterfall at Curling, Corner Brook, Newfoundland, Canada
Back to Einstein’s quote.
Nature is boundless, nature is beautiful but too many of us are not looking deep enough to understand that life itself is nature. As we talk about the impact of climate change and how we need to cut down on the kinds of stuff we cling to, things we do not need but keep buying, there is so much to learn from nature. How living things cohabit with each other, the instincts to survive one day at a time should remind us of contentment and how the simple thing ordinary things can help us find balance and the peace we desperately seek. My childhood memories of the village came back during the lockdown as I found myself yearning for the wholesomeness and the clarity of an ordinary village living right inside nature. It has become a lifestyle to slow down, be in the present and appreciate the smallest, beautiful moments of everyday life.