Nature, wellbeing and finding our own ‘sacred groves’

It was a privilege to be invited to speak at this month’s Urban Water, Urban Culture Symposium, hosted by Sophia University, Tokyo, Japan. This ambitious symposium featured speakers from around the world and across time zones.

Sacred groves, in Japanese, ‘chinju no mori’ are often found associated with Shinto shrines, but are also found widely across Asia.

My presentation focused on the connection between nature and wellbeing, and the potential to find (or even better, create) our own ‘sacred groves’ in or near the places we live. This theme built on a previous envirohistory NZ post ‘Discovering our own sacred groves‘, and drew on my research exploring human-nature relationships in Japan. 

More information on this symposium can be found at this website.

Launch of Nature & Wellbeing – 12 November

The launch is less than two weeks away and you are invited!

South Island folks, we also have a launch event coming up on 10 December – details coming soon.

If you are interested in this topic and would like to organise an event in your part of the world, please get in touch!

For more information on this book and to order, go to the Totara Press website.

New book urges for more nature in our cities

The author’s daughter at a grove of kohekohe trees on the Kapiti Coast. Catherine Knight

In her new book examining the link between nature and wellbeing, environmental historian Dr Catherine Knight explores the benefits of nature experienced by everyday New Zealanders, and argues for more nature in the places where most New Zealanders live – our towns and cities. 

In New Zealand, we think of ourselves as a country rich with nature, but the fact is that most of our surviving forest and pristine waterways are concentrated in the most mountainous parts of the country. They’re preserved not as a result of careful stewardship, but rather an accident of history: it was just too hard to develop and economically exploit these rugged, inaccessible places. Our lowland landscapes are largely bereft of any forests, wetlands or any nature in its original form.

Read more of this article on The Spinoff.

New book exploring nature and wellbeing in New Zealand

I am very excited to announce the emergence into the world of my latest book Nature and Wellbeing in Aotearoa New Zealand: Exploring the connection (Totara Press).

This comes as the culmination of three years of research, interviews and writing, but in many ways, could not be more timely. The experience of many New Zealanders during this year’s Covid lockdown has only served to underscore how important access to natural spaces are – for both body and mind.

To find out more about the book, visit the Totara Press webpage.

Details on launch coming soon!

Biophilia in language – can you help?

walking in autumnal woodland.jpg
Photo courtesy Dom Brenton https://dombrenton.com/

I am on the hunt for words or expressions – in any language – which describe a particular sensation or feeling people get from being in nature, especially forests, but it could be any kind of nature.

A few weeks ago I posted about ‘komorebi’ – the Japanese word for sunlight filtering through leaves, and Dr James Braund (University of Auckland) alerted to me to the wonderful German word, ‘Waldeinsamkeit’, meaning ‘being alone in the woods and experiencing the surrounding natural world on a profoundly sensory, if not spiritual level’.

I also found an interesting blog about the Norwegian term ‘friluftsliv‘, first coined by the Norwegian playwright and poet, Henrik Ibsen, to describe the value of spending time in nature for spiritual and physical wellbeing.

But I would be very interested to hear about any other words or phrased used in other languages (including any in English – I am struggling to think of any).

Can you help? The connection between nature & wellbeing

woman in forest

I see that a focus of this year’s Mental Health Awareness week was ‘Letting nature in’, encouraging New Zealanders to get out and connect with nature, in light of its proven benefits for mental and spiritual wellbeing. (A survey undertaken by the Mental Health Foundation last year found that 95 per cent of New Zealanders reported a lift in mood after spending time in nature.) Continue reading

Trees as sacred – what we can learn from “Tonari no Totoro”

Totoro in treeEarlier this week, Jesse Mulligan put a call out to listeners to share stories or descriptions of their favourite tree on his Afternoons show on RNZ. Most anecdotes or descriptions that flowed in were about actual trees, but one listener identified as his or her favourite tree the one in the Japanese anime “Tonari no Totoro” (My neighbour Totoro). Jesse Mulligan was a little bemused by this, but as a Japanophile – and more specifically – a Biophilia-Japanophile (just made that one up) – I could completely understand this person’s sentiment. Continue reading

Autumn in the Pohangina Valley

Oak tree web.jpgIt was mid-autumn when we moved to our new home in the Pohangina Valley, and the valley has been ablaze with autumn colour – one of the advantages of living in a colder climate where seasons are more delineated.

This has been one of my favourite scenes: a vista from our drive, across the farmer’s paddock out to the Ruahine Range. I love the vibrant contrast of colour: the red of the solitary pin oak, the green of the pasture and bush, against the backdrop of blue-tinged mountain range.

This post was first published on www.catherineknight.nz

See also: The influence of seasons on culture and environmental perceptions; More about seasonal change (fungi)

Life changes

tree houseAbout three weeks ago my family and I made a very big life change. We moved from comfortable, convenient, leafy suburbia on the Kapiti Coast to a 7-acre block of land in rural Manawatu. This involved moving ourselves out of our 213 m2 4-bedroom, double-garaged home into a garage-less house of exactly half that size.

There is a very good reason for us doing this: it wasn’t the plan.

Continue reading