‘There is no such thing as human nature. There is just nature’ ~ Dr. Ian McCallum
I write to you from under a tree. There is a gentle breeze blowing. It’s a warm breeze which, now that we’re in the early stages of winter, is quite a nice thing. The tree sheltering me is a Red bushwillow and its leaves are reaching a soft russet colour as it prepares for another winter. As the breeze hops across the leaves, a quiet but persistent rustle drifts down over me. As if from nature’s own projector, the afternoon sun creates a golden pattern on the walls in the courtyard around me. The combination of the leafy pattern, the dancing golden light, and quiet, dry rustle of leaves creates a soft, meditative movie in front of me.
As I quiet my mind and stop typing for a moment, I find a state of wordlessness. I feel nature surround me. She is always where I am. A constant companion. And, as I tilt my head as if to let my thoughts gently swill around, I smile. This is my everyday.
For not everyone in the world is lucky enough to be surrounded by nature. It’s something that we do our best not to take for granted here in the wilderness of Africa. In fact, it’s something that we take into account every time we publish our daily blog as we connect with the thousands of you who value this connection to nature – even if only via the internet – in the hopes that one day you might come and visit us for a while.
As far back as I can remember, I have been a child of nature. Baths were undesirable but necessary after a full day playing outside in the garden, building forts and fairy houses, or climbing trees. I learned, from a very young age, from my mother, that our roses and flowers bloomed better and more often if you spoke to them nicely while watering them and spent time with them in the fading afternoon light. I became fascinated by the medicinal properties of the plants my mother grew in her garden, and would often skip out and collect snippets of yarrow for a persistent nose bleed, lavender for a quick floral pick me up or a juicy piece of Bulbinella to sooth a pesky burn or bite. I would stare, determinedly, at our Ginko Biloba tree to see if, perhaps, just by being near to it, it would help me remember everything before a big test. And, as I recall these memories, I can’t seem to separate nature and my upbringing – the two are intricately woven together.
These memories were recently triggered after reading about the Duchess of Cambridge’s beautiful and cleverly designed ‘back to nature’ garden at this year’s HRS Chelsea Flower Show – one that, along with our own South African team, represented by Kirstenbosch Garden (Cape Town), who took home their 37th gold for their stunning floral kingdom display aptly named ‘Mountains of Abundance’, was celebrated and enjoyed by so many, and reminding us all of the importance that outdoor spaces play in our emotional and mental wellbeing.
The RHS Chelsea Flower Show has been around for well over a century, pausing only for two world wars and a national worker’s strike. The types of gardens celebrated annually at the Chelsea Flower Show have varied – from rock gardens in the 1920s to ‘orchid mania’ in the 1960s, right the way through to the types of gardens we have seen in recent years where design and storytelling have played a major part. No matter which year or what type of garden, the Chelsea Flower Show has successfully united people from all walks of life by an appreciation, and maybe even adoration, of nature in all her glorious forms… allowing those who crave the energy of the natural world to wander through, if only for a few hours.
“I really hope that this woodland that we have created really inspires families, kids and communities to get outside, enjoy nature and the outdoors, and spend quality time together.”
After reading some of the articles and viewing some of the beautiful photographs of William, Catherine and their children enjoying the garden, it made me realise how lucky we are here at Londolozi to have such an incredibly vast and exciting wilderness playground for all the families who come to visit us in Africa. There’s something about seeing other people and families celebrate nature that really tickles us pink because honouring Mother Nature has been in our DNA since 1926 – to a point that it has become so integral and integrated into what we do on a daily basis. So much so that we created an entire offering just for young children and their families to learn from, be immersed in and enjoy nature wholeheartedly while they are here.
The Londolozi Cub’s Den embodies the spirit of curiosity, of learning from something greater than oneself and of self-discovery and allows for some of those all-important ‘firsts’ to be anchored in nature and for the outdoors to positively influence our young guests, letting them create lasting memories from an early age. As the Duchess of Cambridge so eloquently puts it, “90% of our adult brain develops before the age of 5. What a child experiences in those really early years directly affects how the brain develops”.
While parents around the world place huge emphasis on selecting the right school, fostering relationships with dedicated teachers and investing time and money into the progress that their children make in life (and rightly so), at Londolozi we also value the greatest teacher of all – Mother Nature. Her lessons are vast and deep, covering topics like the power there may be in silence, how to embrace the stillness within each one of us and how to follow the tracks in front of you. She teaches us that without ego we all live in absolute harmony with one another. She confirms, again and again, that there will always be enough for everyone to prosper and, perhaps most important of all the lessons, that when the outcome may seem dry, dull and lifeless, all it takes is a little hope and some patience for our world, and ourselves, to rejuvenate and come back stronger and more abundant than before.
And it makes me think… if all of us were to quietly plant and foster our own ‘Back to Nature’ gardens, how magical would this world turn out to be? If all of our children, and our children’s children, were to return to nature as a classroom, it would ensure that the most formative time in their lives was spent in the most perfect way… in adventure and in discovery, and this would have such an incredible impact on how we as humans and adults progress thereafter in life. I really do tip my hat to the Royal Family for recognizing the impact, healing powers and pure joy to be found in nature, and for reminding us here at Londolozi that the greatest playground of all is right on our doorstep. We invite you all to come and experience the art of your own rewilding and to rediscover your inner child with us. And, if you aren’t able to come and visit us, go and find a piece of nature near you and sit in stillness with her. I’ll bet that your day will be better for it.