Know Your Nature
In many ways, you could say I’ve lived a charmed life, and I won’t challenge that—too much. From where I’ve resided (Colorado, Montana, California, Oregon and now DC), to where I’ve traveled, I’ve been blessed to have seen a fair chunk of the world. My childhood and earlier years were spent exploring tiny logging roads that intersected groves of quaking aspen trees, their branches dripping gold in the Fall. I have regularly witnessed congregations of eagles in Glacier National Park and have even ventured into the cold, grey damp that is the Pacific Northwest in the winter. For years I was surrounded by people who would wax poetic about hikes, camping trips and bike rides, and while I knew how to participate in these conversations, my heart was never into it.
Like the swan, raised among ducklings, I realized later in life that I’m someone who really, really doesn’t like being outside, yet I’ve lived around people who do. It’s dawned on me that perhaps they chose to live close to what they love—smarties! Since I’ve been surrounded my whole life with people who LOVE being in nature, it was easy to think something was wrong with me—which there may be—but hear me out. I’m not agoraphobic, it’s not a fear I have of being in open spaces, but more like a hearty discomfort. Being in the wild doesn’t feed me like it does most people. I don’t feel clean after a forest bath, I’m more agitated than centered after a hike, and the idea of living inside a Subaru ad doesn’t spark joy (unless it’s the one with the driving puppies). By no means am I hostile to nature. In fact, I have a very healthy respect for her, and her powers. It’s just that I don’t think I should be tried and found guilty of moral crimes because I don’t like being outside. If anything, I believe the last thing the wilderness needs is my unenthusiastic flat ass tromping around.
But something has changed as I’ve gotten older. While I’ve seen some amazing museums (still want to see the Prado and Hermitage) and enjoyed hundreds of cities, I’ve realized that as much as I’ve loved the connections I’ve made with fellow citizens on this globe, I feel something missing. I’m yearning for a communion with animals on their turf, and on their terms. Which means one of us must get outside, and that one must be me. Time is not on my side. Extinction rates for multiple species have accelerated, and I need to travel while I can still climb a hill (yikes!) or ride on a rickety bus. Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” While I haven’t been vegetating in one little corner, I have neglected a wide swath of the planet due to a lack of wi-fi. Because of travel, I’ll try to slay my prejudices about the outdoors and pitch myself into some new experiences, which for this swan is more appealing than pitching a tent.
Do you think joining this guy in his persimmon bath counts as a nature encounter?
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