Guest Blog by Hayley Whyte
I often wonder where my love for nature, and indeed desire to protect the planet, stemmed from.
I’d considered this a recent (<5 year) passion – sparked by an increased awareness of the damage being causing to the environment, and the human-induced climate crisis we’re facing as a result.
But during a morning of journaling, in the beautiful setting of Blinkbonny Woods, Anna suggested that we write a letter to our younger selves. With the knowledge and wisdom we now possess – what advice would we offer ourselves and what words of hope would we provide? Taking this moment to reflect, in my own quiet corner of the woods – looking out to the Lammermuir Hills with a cup of hot tea – got me wondering if the feelings I was experiencing, as an adult, were much deeper rooted.
A memory from my childhood came flooding back to me.
It was 31 August 1997. I was 6, going on 7. But I remembered it like it was yesterday.
I’d been outside in the garden, as I often did throughout my childhood. As one of three girls, I was always the one most likely to be found outdoors – climbing on things, playing in the dirt or ‘building’ houses with the freshly cut grass in the field behind our house (well, more like a 2D floor plan but anyway, you get the idea).
I was running up the path to go into the house, when I accidently stepped on a bee. I don’t know why it was there, or even if it had been alive, but I knew it was certainly dead now. It was a large bee, probably a Queen, I thought. I got down on my hands and knees and stared into it’s tiny eyes – as though somehow that would bring it back to life. It did not, and I wept. Prior to that, I’d been a little scared of bees, having been stung once before, but in that moment – all I felt was an overwhelming sense of guilt and grief. I’d taken this bee’s life.
The reason I know the date is because I remember, quite clearly, that it was the same day Princess Diana passed away. I didn’t really understand it at the time but I recall the adults in my life being very upset. And so in my little 6 year old mind, I’d made a connection between the Queen Bee dying and the passing of the Princess. Like some sort of symbolism. I remember writing about it in my small purple diary, drawing a picture of the bee, and then saying a little prayer for it at bedtime.
So it was this me, at 6 years old, that I wrote a letter to during the journaling exercise on WanderWomen Scotland’s ‘Forest Bathing Overnight Retreat’ in May 2021. And this is what I wrote…
Dear Hayley (aged 6),
Thank you for caring so deeply about this little bee. Forget about it tomorrow, but know that one day you will realise the significance of this moment.
You’ve had a little glimpse of how fragile life can be, and how precious every single thing on Earth is – no matter how small. Treasure this knowledge as you continue to explore the outdoors, have adventures, whilst appreciating and respecting the beauty of nature around you.
For a time, you won’t play outside anymore. You’ll be preoccupied by study, friends, boys and eventually alcohol (yes that liquid the adults drink, which makes them feel terrible the next day!) but you will find your way back to nature, for all you are part of it.
You will climb mountains, bigger than you can possibly imagine right now. You will walk for miles. You will ride your bike for hours. You will swim in lochs, reservoirs and seas. You will see an abundance of wildlife (and I don’t mean the kind you’ve seen in the Zoo). You will travel to some of the most beautiful parts of the world… but still feel most in love with home (Scotland).
You will also witness some of the greatest advances in human history, with inventions and innovations you don’t need to understand yet. You will spend hours (as in, 8+ hours a day) on a computer… yes, yuck. When you’re not on said computer, you’ll likely be attached to some other piece of technology. But that will be normal then, as crazy as it seems right now.
And one day (say, in 25 years from now)… you’re going to be sitting at the roots of a grand old pine tree, probably hundreds of years old (that same tree will already be there now, growing tall and strong). You’ll be surrounded only by the sights, sounds and smells of nature. You tune into the only noise you hear – a loud buzz from a solitary bee that has joined you by the tree.
You will be coming out the other side (hopefully) from one of the most devastating pandemics you will (also, hopefully!) ever have to experience – having spent the last year in and out of national ‘lockdowns’, continuously working from home and using technology to stay connected to colleagues, family and friends.
You’ll no longer be as concerned for the bee that died today, more so the entire population of bees. Sadly bees, along with many other species, will be under threat of extinction – due to human activities. Yet we depend on this biodiversity for our survival – it is a vital part of our ecosystem. You will spend many years learning about this, worrying about it and feeling a little bit hopeless. So, here’s my advice to you as you navigate your future self through “eco anxiety” and other general stresses in life;
- Don’t dwell on the past or worry so much about what’s the future holds – just be present and cherish the little moments.
- Continue to fight for what you’re passionate about, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable or awkward sometimes. You, alone, cannot change the world so focus only on the things that you can control.
- Don’t let how you look, or fear of what other people think of you, consume you. You will hate parts of yourself. So learn to love other parts – like your ability to care deeply, to love passionately, to tread lightly.
- When you feel those moments of despair, do exactly as you have today – reflect on it, capture it in your memory, journal or camera, and then move on.
- And finally… although you couldn’t save this little bee today, there are many more that need your help. Remember that nature has a miraculous way of bouncing back, if we let it. So do the best you can – and inspire others to do the same.
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