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My favourite places are wild places – secret beaches where the sand meets the ocean, where you can wade out and feel the coolness of the salty water. Places to stand barefoot on dry earth, listening to cicadas, feeling the sun on your skin. Forests of ancient trees, dappled light and calm; where stress just melts away. They’re places that remain untouched; places of peace and connection; meditative places to feel small, yet at the same time, gloriously free.

As energetic beings, it stands to reason we both feel and respond to our surroundings. Immersed in nature, it’s also easier to be aware of our connection to something greater. Perhaps that’s why we find it so healing. Removed for a while from our day-to-day lives, from crowded towns and the sound of traffic, our souls are stirred by unfamiliar sights, sounds and textures as we rediscover a sense of awe at this world.
And we don’t need to travel far. We can find it in the smallest, most beautiful corner of a garden; an unexpected bank of wildflowers; the flight of swallows in a summer sky; a riverside walk. Small moments of solace in which to stop for a few seconds and just wonder. However tough life might seem, there is still beauty to be found; while however sad we feel, however much we may not want it to, life goes on, will continue to go on. It’s the natural order of things.

It’s the same with gardening – taking time out from the hectic pace of our lives, getting back to basics – whether in your own back garden or pots on your windowsill. It’s immersive, calming, immensely rewarding, from the feeling of damp earth between your fingers as you plant seeds and bulbs, to watching them grow and flower as the seasons pass. Nature can’t be hurried – it takes its own time, inviting you to slow to its age-old rhythms.

When life has become so disconnected, there is much to gain from slowing down. When we first moved to France, after frenetic weeks of packing before leaving our home in England, life had been full speed. But on our first morning in a sleepy French village, we went out for breakfast. Our exhaustion must have been showing, our minds definitely still working at full-on English speed! The propriétaire, Davide, spoke little English, but he came over and said one word, ‘Slow…’

In our fast-paced world, I’ve often thought about that. Right now, I feel behind with just about everything, but I’m watching the first daffodils come into flower, the first leaf buds appearing on the trees. I’m savouring the beauty of cold, frosted mornings, revelling in the gradually lengthening days. Just a few of the simple, timeless things we’re surrounded by. Pieces of this beautiful world that make my heart sing.

Debbie Howells’ new book, The Shape of Your Heart, which discusses how nature can help us heal, is OUT NOW! Get your copy: 🇬🇧 🇺🇸

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