I’m going to jump in and answer the last question first. I will pick forest over city in a heartbeat, every time. My love for nature was born in the long, warm summers of the Free State.
My first memory of nature is playing in mud and clay with my brother after summer rains, building clay oxen, mud pies, tea cups and tiny huts. I also remember the huge back yard at my grandparents’ house with large fruit trees, a tiny vineyard and a vegetable garden. I would sit under the huge apricot tree, watching the neighbours’ homing pigeons flying overhead as he sets them free for their afternoon flight. My great-grandfather was a very serious old man and we were all thoroughly afraid of him. He made his own dried apricots and early afternoon you would always find him somewhere in the back yard; watching over his apricots to prevent birds from swooping down and stealing the fruits of his labour. More often than not he would doze off and that was when we would jump at the opportunity to steal the apricots right from under his nose. Unfortunately, he also woke up more often than expected; walking stick in hand, his stocky frame bent with age, he would chase us away.
My favourite memories, however, would have to be the days in my early teens, tending the garden with my mom. We had a couple of fruit trees and the vegetable patch with potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkin, beans, peas and carrots was the biggest. This was not where we built memories though. We had a tiny garden in front, just a patch along the sidewalk really, which my mother tended to with such love. All of our joy and pain went into that little patch. All our heartache and jubilation worked deep into the soil.
I don’t know the title of the song, or if it even had one, but we would always sign one specific song while busy in that flower patch. I remember one specific day when my mom started digging with such ferocity I thought she would break the spade in her hand.
“There’s a hole in my pocket, dear Liza, dear Liza, there’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, a hole!” – Stabbing and jabbing at the ground, every syllable another stab to soften up the earth.
“Then mend it dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry, then mend it dear Henry, dear Henry, mend it” – Pulling and tugging at the weeds, destroying the pests with every single word.
“With what shall I mend it dear Liza, dear Liza, with what shall I mend it, dear Liza, with what?” – Uprooting everything that should not be there, making sure the earth is clean and ready to receive the seed.
The song is kind of endless and it just carries on and on and on. Usually after about 10 minutes of the above, we would be in stitches as we make up phrases to carry on with the song – all worries forgotten. I think it must be all the laughter and love that we put into that little piece of earth which fed the flowers. Our sidewalk with Cosmos, Dandelions, Agapanthus, Forget-me-not’s and Vygies (Lampranthus / Mesembs) was the brightest and prettiest one in town!
That is where Nature Therapy started for me and to this day I believe that there is nothing to clear your head than getting out there.