It’s fair to say that humans are constantly searching for meaning. Some look for it in possessions, material objects, status; others in jobs, careers, relationships. But there’s a growing number of us seeking out meaning in the everyday and the everyday world around us. And on a balmy October Saturday in Nottingham, I found a moment of true meaning with a true community of like-minded individuals.
It’s one of the ironies of modern life that ‘social’ media is often anything but. Algorithms, advertising and (subsequent) apathy can challenge the social dynamics that once came so naturally in this channel. But the Creative Countryside Community has bucked this trend, and I anticipated the opportunity to meet real people that I was connected to online.
On the very skirts of Nottingham, Attenborough Nature Reserve was the setting for the inaugural Creative Countryside Community meet-up. I had high expectations of a relaxed and informal afternoon walking and talking, and negotiated a sun-drenched and crisp drive down through the Peak District.
Upon arrival, the first thing that struck me was how easy the company was. Sometimes meets can feel tentative, or uncomfortable, but not so with the Creative Countryside crew. I was surprised at how natural the company and conversation flowed; a group dynamic that shared something intangible yet shared and understood by us all.
As we walked through the reserve, our first stop saw us take in some autumnal meditation, led by Eleanor. People often claim that time is the biggest barrier to living more slowly or seasonally, yet this moment highlighted that anyone can pause and find moments of reflection, no matter who you are or what your schedule.
The group wound its way along the path, and our movement and conversations flowed gently, like much of the water that surrounded us. We soon approached a larger green space, and took a detour to participate in our next activity, ‘grounding’.
I had never tried this before, and we were told that no-one had to participate if they didn’t feel comfortable, but we all took our shoes and socks off and felt our bare feet connect to the earth beneath us. It was a sensual juxtaposition, as the oddly warm earth felt at odds with the blades of dew-laden grass that soaked our feet.
Eleanor led the group through further meditation, as we closed our eyes and used our other senses to hear and smell and feel nature, focusing solely on being physically present in that moment. Once again, it was not a long exercise, but it felt meaningful and accessible; something I will definitely pause to do in the moments when I am at home in the garden.
As we continued our walk, we foraged for sticks. Down by the edge of a small lake, we paused for apple and cinnamon tea, flapjacks and apples from Eleanor’s smallholding. Using string, we bound the twigs and sticks we had collected to create stars: just one simple way to bring nature into the home.
In that moment, we had everything we could possibly need. Life seems so overcomplicated at times (and undoubtedly, it is us who make it so), that the opportunity to strip things right back to a pure simplicity seems to lift that veil and show us that we really don’t need that much. Simple, humble food, good company and a natural environment to appreciate: this was a meaningful moment of such honesty and truth, that other worldly cares and anxieties seemed simply to ebb away into the lapping waves of the lake at our feet.
Following this break, we turned and followed a new path back to the centre from where we had started out, as the day drew to a close and we said our goodbyes.
It’s strange how certain things can affect you. The day was extremely restorative, and seemed somehow to hit a much needed re-set somewhere inside of me. I left the reserve feeling an immense sense of nourishment, not solely from the delicious flapjack, but on a deeper, more spiritual level.
Life can be hard, tough and challenging, and knowing how my own mind works, it can be all too easy to slip into a habit of focusing on anxiety and worry. Taking the time to meet new people and make genuine connections is something not just to enjoy, but something to actively seek out and embrace.
And I certainly embraced those few hours of meaning, as my soul danced free amongst the river and willows that opened up my horizons this Saturday.