Self-Care Saturday: Outside is Grounding
By Sierra Taliaferro, KEEN fan and Outdoor Afro leader
During my time in the midst of a pandemic that has most people stuck inside, I’ve made the most of my time while being home in southeastern Wisconsin to enjoy every bit about being outdoors. The past several months have been challenging, and yet, despite it, I find myself grounding my spirit in gratitude. From the tall deciduous and coniferous forests that tower above me, to the pollinator-friendly asters and goldenrods below that line the trails. I’ve been taking it all in, especially now. During this time of the year, the trees are reminding us once again how beautiful it is to let dead things go to prepare for a new season ahead.
Birding is my therapy, my escape from the chaos of the world.
Just as I was preparing my new life and transitioning to be a South Florida resident, the pandemic hit us like a basketball against the pavement. I was laid off a week into my new job and was trying to find ways to stay encouraged during this unusual time. After a month, I decided to come back home to Milwaukee, Wisc., to help out with family and community, and I jumped right in with no hesitation. Spring had just arrived in the midwest. Brisk and chilly air in the morning that warmed up by the afternoon. Just enough for the buds on the trees to make their grand appearance and warm enough to keep winter dormant. I spent most of my days working on an urban farm – my second favorite hobby – to grow food and to give back to my community in a different capacity. This type of work nourished the soul and eased the mind. It was good, satisfying work that’s tiring, but rewarding. Though, being wrapped up in the hustle of the season, I often get consumed in taking care of everyone else except myself.
So here we are in the beginning of autumn – one of the most beautiful seasons to experience in Wisconsin – and I wanted to make sure that before heading back south, to treat myself to a self-care Saturday morning adventure in the city.
I chose a very significant spot in the city for a beautiful Saturday morning to go birding and hiking. Warnimont Park, located on the south end of Milwaukee, sits along the shore of Lake Michigan that has these magnificent views along the bluffs overlooking the coastline. It's a very popular park among hikers, bikers, and birders like myself. And, seeing that I am in the midst of fall migration, this made for the perfect location to spend a day getting lost in the woods and enjoying the views.
I love an early morning start to the day. That stillness in the morning as the sun brings light into the forest greets my face with warmth, and I am so receiving of it. Exploring the trails, binoculars in hand and eyes to the sky as I let my ears do the searching for me: Warblers. Everywhere. They dance among the Northern Red Oaks and American Basswood leaves above me, so rapid and yet so whimsical. Their calls and whistles surround me in abundance where sometimes all I can do is just stand still, close my eyes, and listen. Birding is my therapy, my escape from the chaos of the world. Salvation. With birding, I can lose track of time, getting lost in the joy of searching for birds and simultaneously releasing my stress.
Wherever you go, don’t forget to document your happiness.
As the morning comes to a close, I ended my self-care adventure with a trip down to the beach below – a popular place among visitors as well. I met at the sacred place where land meets water, kicked off my shoes to greet Lake Michigan with honor, right at the edge. The water was cold, but refreshing. And yet, it is a beautiful homecoming to receive after trading in my lakefront views for the Atlantic Ocean. I took that moment in solitude and absorbed every bit of it. I embraced the sounds of the waves meeting the shore, and enjoyed the gentle breeze that complemented the sun warming the landscape. I sat there, enjoying the moment and giving gratitude for the abundance of beauty and the healing nature provided for me in this moment. Today, tomorrow, and always hereafter.
If you’re planning your next self-care outdoor adventure, wherever you go, don’t forget to document your happiness. Take pictures! Nothing’s better than looking back to remember how that moment/place made you feel. It encourages you to keep coming back and to do them more often.
Sierra Taliaferro is an Outdoor Afro leader, outdoor educator, and self-described "bird nerd," who works to promote diversity in urban conservation and bring awareness about water conservation and the importance of water in our way of life.