I am a city girl through and through and never really considered spending time in nature essential to my being. Of course, I love the changing colours of the fall, sunsets, and flowers - but my favourite days include reading indoors, going to coffee shops, and strolling on busy streets. Camping and waterfalls are just not what my dreams are made of.
But during our second winter in Delhi, nature walks became synonymous with happiness for me, and I was most surprised. It took a combination of living in a crowd of 25 million people, the lack of enjoyable sidewalks, and unpleasantly cold temperatures inside our apartment to make me truly appreciate that little gem of a space we found ourselves in almost every Sunday afternoon.
When I recall walking through Aravalli Biodiversity Park in Vasant Kunj, Delhi, I can still feel the generous rays of winter sun warming up my body, the silence of nature swallowing us, and my tense shoulders relaxing. Those dusty dirt paths lined by bushes and trees thirsty for rain gave our kids a chance to run around freely; while my husband and I had the best conversations. It gave us a chance to breathe, to reflect, to move our bodies without the stress of the crowd, the honking, and constant activities.
That winter I longed for that wilderness more than I have ever longed for nature before. It felt like a matter of life and death for my soul. It was our place in the asphalt urban jungle of a megacity that offered us beauty, comfort, and some form of freedom. Missing parks and playgrounds that were so easily available to take our kids to in the US, Biodiversity Park became our sacred spot of exploration.
My son would bring his binoculars, he’d collect rocks, climb on trees, venture off the path and race with my daughter. Each time we went, they counted the number of peacocks they spotted, at times more than 30! We saw jackals and beautiful birds, and of course the cutest stray puppies. My husband discovered a hidden spot with water, frogs, and different types of orchids that we later found out to be off limits for the public. We enjoyed a picnic in a secluded part of the reserve on the first day of the year, grey and dusty, but gloriously quiet and undisturbed.
Now that we are back in the US for a season, I treat hikes like the privilege they are. Just like in Delhi, they give me a time and space to breathe, to think, to move, to take myself out of the usual and gain a different perspective. It’s a chance to connect with God. The Sonoran desert, where we live, is beautiful in the winter. The sky has been full of dark clouds lately, a breathtaking contrast to the green bushes and cacti and the vibrant purple and yellow wildflowers. Each time I go, I feel such gratitude for the beauty around me and remember the season when walks in a Delhi reserve were a healing balm for my soul.