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Surviving the Pandemic in the Woods

What did your pandemic experience teach you about mental and physical well-being?

Recently I had the pleasure to unpack some of those lessons learned on the radio show Intersections: Where Art & Science Meet with Mark Kesling and Krista Hoffmann-Longtin. For me and my creative partner-in-crime, Leslie Lorance, it was the practice of immersing ourselves in nature that provided the restoration needed to assuage the stressors and unknowns of pandemic life. Before the pandemic, to rejuvenate my mind and creativity, I’d regularly take a 30-minute break to walk the dog in the woods behind our house or ride my bike along the Monon Trail. Without fail, I’d return to the home office with a clearer head and renewed energy. The fresh air, bird song, break from screens, and the increased attention to walking without tripping over a tree root helped me shift into a better state of mind. During the pandemic, a stroll in the woods became my daily ritual for processing the uncomfortable aspects of the “new normal.”

On those mid-day excursions, I noticed a gradual uptick in other trail users, newcomers that I had not seen before. Within a few weeks, there were hundreds of people using the trails daily, usually sporting fresh new running gear or bicycles. That observation was further reinforced when my wife and I went to the local bike store to purchase some trail bikes. The shop was completely sold out and back-ordered for six weeks with a sharp increase in fresh cycling enthusiasts, just like us.

Enter Leslie, a fellow filmmaker and a Naturalist for Indy Parks and Recreation. She and I got together for a socially-distant coffee to discuss our usual topics: climate change, politics, and storytelling. We also discussed the noticeable rise in people venturing out into parks around Indy. It seemed like a "natural" move, with most venues, restaurants, and attractions closed or heavily restricted. Then Leslie asked the inciting question that sparked an 18-month journey: “if people are turning to nature during the pandemic for exercise and relaxation, then are they taking the next step to support the preservation of our natural areas?”

With the help of our colleague, Elaine Klemesrud, we dove into researching and scripting a short film to raise support for the natural areas that became even more of a sanctuary for us in our urgent time of need. Fast forward to today, and we are proud to unveil our film: Solace.

Many thanks to Mark and Krista for inviting us to discuss the idea, the challenges of creating this film during a pandemic, the threats our natural areas face, and further conversations around protecting our blue and green spaces.

You can listen to our conversation here and watch Solace here. Please join in the conversation! We look forward to hearing what other well-being lessons people learned from their pandemic experience.

We need nature, and nature needs us.

- Braden Worrell, Producer at Monumental Productions


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