• Anu van Warmelo

Indoor Outdoors

While I know many of you have been using this time to declutter and focus on various projects in the home environment, there is another level possible that I only recalled after several weeks of the lockdown. It harks back to a project I worked on when doing my MSc at the Centre for Alternative Technology and we were tasked with 'creating the outdoors inside'.

My approach was to identify the key elements as relating to our five senses, then replicating them. This would often require a lot of thought. For example, in seascapes such as the one above (Mount's Bay, Cornwall) it is the horizontal perspective that is visually essential, though light and colour have an obvious role. Horizontal lines tend to have a calming effect on us, whereas vertical motivate and energise. A Feng Shui parallel would be Earth shapes as opposed to Wood. (Actually, once I had established this, I and other members of our group rearranged the pictures in our houses once we got home, making sure the horizontal were emphasised. It was the end of the academic year, papers were due and our stress needed to be alleviated.)

As for the other senses, in this case sounds of the ocean are obvious. Tastes can be brought in by eating appropriate food, fish would be one option, seaweed another, or another dish you associate with your favourite sea locale perhaps. Smell is also obvious, but it helps to look deeper (or smell deeper) as with the visual, and consider using an ioniser to generate negative ions, which you would be getting from a sea breeze. Kinaesthetic/touch is harder to replicate beyond getting in some sand or a small pool, for it is often physical activity that we relish at these sites. Yet there have been people reporting on the news how they've been using their stairwells to practise climbing, and others missing swimming have been 'dry swimming' on their floors. Now if they had managed to recreate their environments in such a way as I am suggesting, they would have got the full experience - or a good approximation of it anyway!

There is also, of course, the option of having pictures of our favourite places in the house. The Japanese sometimes go one step further and recreate a beloved landmark inside, or at least in their gardens e.g. Mount Fuji. This is a way of honouring our connection to the greater environment. Another Japanese technique is redolent of the 'design approach' I am advocating, where they have miniature boxes of grass on desks that can be clipped with nail scissors, or the popular sand gardens with tiny rakes - which, rather than buy at an exorbitant rate from an office supplier for 'de-stressing gadgets', you can make yourself for nothing, and de-stress whilst doing it.

In a short blog, I can only scrape the surface of this technique (it took months of work to develop it originally), but you should have some idea now of what you can do whenever you do find yourself confined within four walls for any length of time. As some homework, if you are bored, look at this picture of Constantine Woods in Cornwall, ask yourself what the key elements are in such a place and what steps you could take to replicate them in your home environment. Have fun!