In high school, I had an art teacher who loved life. Most of us even called her Lively. She had the sunniest disposition and radiated positivity, tranquility, and individuality. The dim lights of her art room, with is aromatherapy air purifier, welcome mat, and inspirational decals, set you at ease and stimulated your creativity. In an institution constructed of cinderblock walls painted an off-white with little to no character, she created an environment where I could express myself without the judging eyes of my peers constantly encroaching on my personal space.
You don’t find many teachers like Lively who trust their students to develop their own projects and who teach their students more about life and themselves that whatever is part of the subject’s curriculum. With inspirational videos from YouTube, monologues in the beginning of class, and creations painted by her (she liked painting flowers- mainly hibiscuses), she lived what she taught and encouraged us to do the same.
Out of all of her obsessions, the concept of “earthing” is the one I remember the most. Lively described the act of earthing as being fully relaxed as you are in contact with and surrounded by nature. But she didn’t mean just going to a nature reserve and reflection on the natural beauty whilst occasionally stroking a few leaves. Earthing is taking off your shoes and strolling through your back yard in bare feet, feeling the grass lush and springy, breathing deeply, and meditating on your place in the world.
I kept thinking about earthing and all of Lively’s inspirational musing as I picked cucumbers and found myself wrists-deep in potting soil at the Spring Center for Learning.
“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” – Margaret Atwood
The soil was moist- a dark chocolate cake speckled with white cream orbs of nutrients and cool between my fingers. I felt like a child again, playing in the dirt, not worrying about tracking dirt into the house afterwards.
The greenhouses were warm, but not uncomfortable; a short breeze would blow through every once in a while. All organic and natural were the green cucumbers, almost ripe tomatoes, and sprouting seedlings. I was able to spend four humid but rewarding hours surrounded by nature, participating in an experience that reinforced my love and appreciation for the world around me. It made me realize that earthing, in whatever way you do it, relaxed me more than other material or digital comforts could.
“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery- air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, ‘This it what it is to be happy.'” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
It’s a feeling you don’t often get to experience. With all the tv shows to watch, emails to answer, and projects to complete, spending time with nature can be forgotten. I think it’s important, then, to take advantage of the opportunities you do get. Enjoy the sun when it’s out. Go for walks or go out for an afternoon in the park. Maybe even dance in the rain every once in a while. Show the earth some love and you may just learn something about yourself that you never knew before.