When Sayde Alexandrescu, MSYT, led the first Practice in the Prairie yoga session of this summer, she encouraged participants to listen carefully to the outdoor sounds and truly connect with their time in nature.
“When you really sit and listen you will hear layer upon layer,” she said. “It’s not just the wind whistling, or the bird calling. The leaves are also rustling as the bird moves on the branch, and a squirrel may be jumping nearby. There is an energy to the Earth that moves in wavelengths. We can sit back and connect with that.”
Sayde said Indian Creek Nature Center is an ideal place for a dose of nature; with the patio and pond out front, those connections can happen even if you aren’t able to go farther into the prairie or woods. “You can sit on the patio and have access to the big sky and the sounds of the water. And when someone like me asks you to close your eyes and think of the sky and feel the Earth beneath you, you can access those memories, those moments, when you actually have the opportunity to be out in nature. When we say to connect to the Earth and the sky, the air and the wind, just one experience to draw from is something you’ll carry with you throughout your whole life; you can access it when you close your eyes. You have the power of that connection.”
While leading her yoga practice this summer, Sayde continued to remind participants of the importance of connecting with nature for our mental and physical health. “The science shows us that letting yourself spend time scrolling or catching up on social media, spiraling in the news cycle, or even watching a TV show or sporting event, aren’t things that give us long term physiological health. It shows us that just 15 minutes being in touch with nature calls us back to those wavelengths. And there are healing properties of being able to not just be in touch with nature in that moment but to take it with you as a resiliency tool, a tool of healing and health. It is a gift you give yourself and the Nature Center affords you every time you visit.”
Sayde said meditation and yoga practice often bring her back to her time spent outdoors. “When I get encouraged into a meditation that involves senses and they say pick one of your favorite places to go or your safest places to go or the best smell, that always sends me thinking of sitting under the pine trees at the Nature Center, a few fresh, but mostly ones that have landed within a week or more. And even if I’m in the middle of the day, or in a blanket of darkness, I feel warm no matter what the temperature and I just appreciate that smell. It’s fabulous.”
It’s not surprising, since spending time getting in touch with the Earth is something Sayde has been doing all her life. She grew up on Wilder Drive, just around the corner from Indian Creek Nature Center. She refers to ICNC as her “front yard” growing up, and she spent much of her formative years exploring the creek, trails, prairie, and woodlands in the area.
“Being able to walk across the street and enter the trails and take advantage of all the hard work people were doing to maintain the Nature Center was a real blessing,” Sayde said. “My mom made that choice deliberately. My parents were hippies and loved knowing we would be living and growing up by a no-spray area.”
“And I thought it was just the best place in town. I loved being down by the creek and walking along the bank, and year after year watching Old Henry grow.” She recalls cozying up in the barn, eating pancakes during Maple Syrup Festival, marveling at the taxidermy animals and honeycombs when the bee hives were added, and enjoying haunted barn events around Halloween. “Learning about nature in all of those ways was wonderful.”
The Blue Bridge, a recent addition to the ICNC trail system, is a prominent fixture in the memories of her youth, as well. She said she loves having been able to watch the growth of the Nature Center over so many years.
Sayde’s mother, Charlene Brooker, credits the family dog with finding their home. “My mom always said that their first baby, a dog named Buster, found the home adjacent to the ICNC,” Sayde recalled. “It was 1975 and they were enjoying a walk on the new trails when their naughty dog ran off. He emerged on Wilder Drive, and my mom walked out of the woods to see him standing in front of three little homes all in a row. She told my father she would really love to live there. Three years later, while pregnant with my brother, Sam, the house went up for sale just when they were in the market to buy. The Nature Center was my front yard, and my backyard was a half acre of food and perennial gardens. My mom still makes beauty wherever she goes.”
And while Sayde no longer lives adjacent to the Nature Center, she remains connected by teaching during Practice in the Prairie, the summer yoga series, and bringing her daughters out to explore the trails or to enjoy Monarch Fest. She appreciates how special it is to have her daughters also grow up knowing this land. She said they especially love organizing their own full moon hikes.
“I just turned 47,” said Sayde. “So I have grown up along with the Nature Center, just as my mom and dad always planned.”
Sayde has fond memories of crossing the “Blue Bridge” to head to her friend’s house to play. She shared the following about the now iconic color of the Bertram Road Bridge. “The ‘Blue Bridge’ wasn’t always blue! For most of its existence, it was metal, built of steel, and it weathered well for decades, just rusting a tad more every few years. When the County began more extensive maintenance projects, it was painted green, probably a good choice for blending into the surrounding trees that arched over Indian Creek. When it was time for a touch up, the neighbor just across the street from the Nature Center put in a bid. John Osborne was like He-Man to me: strong, smiley, and he drove machines that I didn’t understand and had built a massive teeter-totter and tree swing in his front yard where the neighborhood kids were welcome. He owned and operated Osborne Construction. All of the machines and trucks for Osborne Construction were Osborne blue. When he got the bid to paint the bridge, he had some more of his signature blue mixed up, and alas the bridge has been Osborne blue ever since.”