By Kristina Ferrara
The way we perceive our world, ourselves, and each other affects our thoughts, behaviors, and interactions with this world we all share. Living in the city provides its residents with a perspective on the world that is quite different from that provided by living on a farm or a cabin in the woods. One of the best things about the work Eagle Eye does is to provide new perspectives to those involved in the program. Many youth we work with have their first experience in nature with Eagle Eye and it’s incredible to see how their new experience challenges and opens up their perspective on our world.
One activity we do is to pay attention to the sounds we are able to hear in nature and compare them to what we normally hear in the city. We have the group spread out and find a spot to sit and listen to the sounds they can hear around them. We listen for soft sounds, loud sounds, those caused by insects, by animals, the wind, water. For a few minutes we absorb the natural sounds all around us, allowing ourselves to feel completely immersed in our natural surroundings. After doing this activity, and going back home to the city, it’s amazing how many more natural sounds we’re able to hear. If we listen hard, blended into the car horns, sirens, and general chatter, we can hear birds, the wind blowing through leaves, bees buzzing in flowers. Appreciating these natural sounds in our city environment is important in realizing how connected we still are even when in the city. It challenges our perspective that the city is separate from nature and allows us to feel more connected to our world.
Coming from the suburbs of New Jersey, surrounded by farmland, woods, parks, and creeks, feeling a connection to nature while in the city was something particularly important for me. Growing up, my friends and I spent the vast majority of our time outside exploring nature. Whether it was hiking in the nearby woods, splashing around in the creeks, or searching for fossils at the fossil beds, we were always on some type of outdoor adventure. Nature has always been the place where I feel most connected not only to the rest of the world but also to my own thoughts and emotions. For me, nature is where I go whenever I need to take some time to ground myself and get a better perspective on whatever is going on in my life. My first few months living in Boston, it was really hard for me to adjust to city life. Being surrounded by buildings when I was used to being surrounded by trees made me feel quite small and cut-off from the natural world. Working with Eagle Eye has helped change my perspective of being separate from nature by helping me see how connected we still are even in the city.
Feeling connected to the natural environment is important for our mind, body, and soul as individuals, but also for our world as a whole. I believe that it is through the feeling of connection and love for nature that stewardship blooms. If you’re asked to give back to or care about the environment when you’ve never been able to experience and appreciate its beauty, it’s much harder to be enthusiastic and passionate about getting involved. When we feel connected to the environment, when we’ve been immersed in its beauty and we have seen first hand its importance, then, and only then, do we feel compelled to act.
The most rewarding part of working with Eagle Eye, for me, is seeing the desire to give back grow in our youth participants. Their perspectives on nature change – they no longer view nature as something separate and distant to themselves, but as an integral part of us all. Youth recognize that by protecting nature they, in turn, are protecting all life on earth, including their own, and this transformation in perspective is an incredible thing to be a part of.