28 November 2012


Wherever I live ~ prairie, desert, coastal swamp, city, temperate rain forest ~ I have one or more special places where I commune with nature.  The spot may come with a sweeping view embracing hundreds of square miles, or it may by a niche small enough to conceal me.  There I watch, listen, and feel the living world.  

If I am alert and quiet, the creatures who call the place home will eventually accept my presence, and go about their lives.  Birds and small mammals take me for granted.  So do reptiles and insects.  These times are necessary to my well-being.  Paradoxically I lose my sense of self into the flow of wind, weather, earth, rocks, sun, and sky. It is quite wonderful. 

Perhaps because I grew up in farming country, with ready access to the Rocky Mountains, this connection comes naturally to me.  I truly believe that if more people were able to set aside a portion of each day immersed in nature, we would all be healthier, and better able to fashion a just and balanced world.

David Haskell, a fellow ecologist and evolutionary biologist, agrees.  As described in James Gorman's NYTimes article Finding Zen in a Patch of Nature, Haskell visited the same patch of Tennessee forest many times over the course of a year, relaxing and noticing his breathing, and recording the events and changes he witnessed.  He published his observations in a book, 

According to Gorman, "It is this kind of perception, halfway between metaphor and field note, that makes his voice a welcome entry in the world of nature writers.  He thinks like a biologist, writes like a poet, and gives the natural world the kind of open-minded attention one expects from a Zen monk rather than a hypothesis-driven scientist.  He avoids terms like 'nature deficit disorder' and refuses to scold the bug-fearing masses. His pitch is more old-fashioned, grounded in aesthetics as much as science.

" 'You an live a perfectly happy life never having heard of Shakespeare,' he says, 'but your ife is in some ways a little diminished, because there's so much beauty there.  And I think the same is true of nature.' "

I find this approach very appealing.  It is in the spirit of the old naturalists ~ Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, John Muir, and even in his own way Edward Abbey.  No matter where you live, you may be surprised by the discovery of your own patch of nature.  Seek it out, and open your senses.  You don't have to take notes, write a book, or become an environmental activist, though any of these may sprout.  Just breathe, watch, listen, feel.

No comments:

Post a Comment