By Magaly Arredondo Lopez (she/her/ella)
Recently, I was in a meeting and was told to visualize the following: “Imagine a surfer standing near the water under a pier with a surfboard under their arm,” the meeting leader said. Then, they went on to lead another visualization: “Imagine someone on a sandy beach doing a yoga pose where they are upside down and supporting their body with their head.” Afterwards, they showed us the pictures of what they had us visualize. The first was a picture of Dani Burt, the 2017 World Adaptive Surfing Champion and first known female above the knee amputee surfer with her water prosthetic leg that she designed. The second picture was of Jessamyn Stanley, a proudly black, fat, femme queer yoga practitioner, yoga teacher, advocate, and author.
After seeing the pictures, those of us in the meeting were asked about our reflections. Many named that when they first visualized the images in their head, they saw white people. They saw a white, blond, surfer dude and a white woman with lulu lemon yoga pants. A lot of us also admitted that we felt guilty after imagining that and tried to re-envision a new image in our heads. I pictured a long-haired black butch woman as the surfer and an Indian woman as the person doing yoga.
What do you imagine when you imagine an “outdoorsy” person? Or a nature enthusiast? Is it a scientist with a degree who is testing water or writing a report about what they see outside? Is it someone who is mountain climbing with the best outdoors gear from Patagonia or REI? How about you? Do you imagine yourself outside? Do you consider yourself a nature enthusiast? Why or why not?
Nature and Us
The environmental field is a predominantly white, male, cisgender field. However, that does not mean that people of color, women, queer people, fat people, or disabled people don’t belong in the outdoors. In fact, there are so many wonderful people of color, women, queer people, fat people, and disabled people in the environmental field – even outside of professional settings, we have always been stewards of our Mother Earth. Believing that you—whoever you are and whatever identities you represent—do not belong outside or are not a part of nature is an absolute lie. Before we became more civilized and lived in buildings and homes with electricity, we lived outside. We hunted and gathered. We looked for nuts, berries, leaves, and herbs that we could use for nourishment and healing. Even now, people of color continue to reclaim their ancestral traditions of responding to illnesses with natural remedies that Mother Earth provides.
We are not only connected to nature, we are nature. Every single one of us. It is no surprise that spending time outside or even seeing trees and birds through our windows is so incredibly important and helpful for our mental and emotional health.
Queer People of Color and Nature
We are in the middle of some challenging, stressful, and isolating times. Before the pandemic, the struggle of finding spaces that were affirming, accepting, and welcoming of all of Queer People of Color’s intersecting identities was already challenging. The pandemic has only made it even more difficult for us to be in community with one another in safe and affirming spaces. The present challenges are a reminder of how pertinent prioritizing holistic wellness, connection, resources, and community building really is for us. It is not enough to survive the present challenges posed to us as Queer People of Color. We need to thrive independently and together.
Nature is an incredible and powerful force. It is a source of healing and an opportunity to come home, or come back, to ourselves. Being in and engaging with nature reminds us of the irrefutable truth that we are also a part of nature: we are also beautiful, wonderful, and need to be taken care of and respected.
Are you ready to go outside now? Has this inspired you to sit outside on your porch or go on a walk? Are you finding yourself smiling at the birds or squirrels you are seeing outside of your window?
My fellow queer people of color, I offer the following tips for enjoying nature on your own and with others:
- Go outside in a time and place that feels safe and accessible for you.
- EX: This can include sitting on a park bench or even sitting outside of your own home while observing nearby trees or clouds.
- Drink plenty of water and wear sunscreen and/or bug spray if you plan to do physical activities outside.
- Engage your senses.
- EX:Come up close to a tree and observe the bark, the leaves, the bugs. If you cannot see, reach out and lightly touch the leaves and bark. Take a deep breath and observe what you smell.
- Go somewhere new.
- EX: Go see a new park, a new trail, or a different part of your neighborhood.
- Go outside with a buddy!
- EX: This could even include catching up with a friend on the phone while outside.
Last but not least, we invite you to join us for QPOC & Nature: Healing Outside on Sunday, October 24th from 1-3 PM CST. This will be a socially distanced, in-person event outside of our allgo offices. Masks are required. We are limiting attendance to 30 slots, so register early to save your spot. Although all are welcome, we are prioritizing queer people of color for this event. Please keep this in mind when considering registering.
Register at: https://bit.ly/QPOCOutside