Certainty from nature in an uncertain world
I don’t know about you, but after a long winter with toddlers constantly getting sick – as toddlers do, spring is a welcomed season in my house! Just as spring marks a new beginning for wildlife, it’s also a new beginning for us. We start to get outside more, colds and flus take a backseat, and we can reasonably look forward to summer! But this year, things feels a little different.
You don’t need me to explain to you what it’s been like—we’re experiencing this together, an ironic sentiment since isolation can make us feel disconnected and uncertain. It’s especially hard for children who desperately need routines. My children are 2 and 4. They are used to going to daycare, seeing friends, and spending time with their grandparents. With the loss of this (and many other) routines, we are trying to find what our new normal looks like.
In times of stress and worry, I have always turned to nature to cope. Nature is constant. It is well known that spending time in nature reduces anxiety and stress. These past months, I seem to have forgotten my coping method. Maybe it was the uncertainty around where we could go to be with nature, or maybe the thought of leaving the safety of our yard was too much. As a family, we spent time exploring our yard and woods but after more than a month, even this wilderness became monotonous.
When it was announced that we could once again safely explore public parks and trails, my family immediately tugged on our boots to visit our favourite local spot: The Gateway Wetland Trails in Oromocto. We used to come here weekly, if not more often, and stepping onto the gravel trail felt comforting and energizing. I felt welcomed home by the splash of ducks and woodsy air, ready to once again walk the trails and bridges. The chickadees and red winged blackbirds were competing with their songs, red squirrels scurried about, and the vibrant marsh reminded me of the crucial role that nature plays in nurturing our souls.
My son and daughter spent the time looking for painted rocks (one of our favourite activities) and searching for beavers (still no luck there). Nothing can compete with their excitement for the outdoors— not even Paw Patrol! With muddy boots and windswept hair, their moods and spirits lifted during our walk and stayed high for days after.
It was exciting to be back with nature, and reassuring to see that the Town was encouraging our safe enjoyment with new signs letting the public know how to conduct themselves while using the trail amid this pandemic. All parks and trails will have their own rules and recommendations as more begin to open up, so take care to research and understand what they are before heading out.
I know how precious our natural spaces are here in New Brunswick. I have dedicated my academic and professional careers to help protect it, and I have been privileged enough to be able to access it my whole life. This pandemic has truly shown me how my mood and wellbeing suffer when disconnected from the natural world. Nature provides so much to us, but perhaps none greater than the certainty and comfort it gives during uncertain times.
Header photo by Nick Hawkins Photography
 Spending time in nature can improve your mood and moderate stress, but if you are experiencing severe mental health challenges, please contact your doctor. It is not capable of treating serious mental illness.
Kelsey Wierdsma has a Master of Environmental Management and is the Conservation Coordinator at CPAWS NB. She’s a homegrown New Brunswicker and is passionate about building community support for protected areas. Her work in the non-profit sector has given her an outlet to make real change and educate others about the important work that needs to be done in New Brunswick and beyond.