Each time I go outside I feel awakened. My body relaxes, I take a deep breath of air, smell the flowers and earth beneath me, feel the warmth of the sun and the touch of the breeze on my face, and I smile inside. There is no substitute.
And the more I feel the truth of my experience in nature the less I feel able to tolerate the indoors with all it’s still air and sterile surfaces. My senses feel deprived and I feel like I am suffocating.
And yet I feel guilty that this experience, this feeling of aliveness in This Present Moment, outside, seems to be becoming the driving force around around which my life evolves. How can I be outside more? More aware, in tune, and connected to my surroundings? How can I learn from nature, which does not create any trash, which is a fully interconnected web in which no string can be cut without affecting the whole? Why do these not feel like valid, lifelong learning goals?
As I re-enter city life here in Seattle, and commit to returning to Boston for the summer I already feel the validity of such nature connecting experiences being challenged.
I grew up in Boston, one of the most highly educated cities in the world. I went to amazing schools, love, respect and seek people who think critically, challenge the status quo, and apply a global, social justice, feminist, and progressive lenses to everything.
And I used to think that I can embody all that and live simply and harmoniously with nature as well. But now I am not so sure. It’s a totally different way of living; watching the plants as they transition from season to season, learning to eat and sustain oneself off of the local flora that you have picked yourself from the forest floor, understanding that forest to be in recovery from human logging, and asking permission each time you take something. Each moment is about the Now. What is around you? What attracts you? What makes you curious and calls your attention? The truth of the Now becomes all that really matters.
But what about ambition? What about global perspective? Critical, intellectual thought? Am I living in an idealized, privileged person’s bubble? What about working for equal access? But that means policy, politics, academia… Worlds where nature is not experienced or respected on a day to day basis. Worlds where nature is, at best, objectified as a resource worth using wisely and understanding for human consumption and gain. Worlds full of dysfunction, waste, consumerism, talk, talk and talk…. and action that leads to real change seems slow and hard to come by.
To disappear into the forest and start creating and living an alternative sounds so appealing. But is that not escapism?
I feel conflicted. I see my own contradictions and I don’t know how to reconcile them. If I follow my heart and intuition, and listen to my sensory and bodily experiences I think I would continue to move further and further away from modern, city life, deeper and deeper into the forest. That’s what feels right. And I know I am not the only one. That others, who I admire, love and respect, are doing the same. Others who will validate me and give me the community and support I need.
Until I come back. Then people start asking me what about the rest of us? People I grew up with and also admire, love, and respect will ask me what about the rest of the world? That is a good question. What about the rest of the world?