Life and death ebbs and flows. Nature, man — we are the same. We intertwine. We go way back together. We both have stakes in this planet, this big blue floating ball. How is it that we both ended up here?
Why is it natural to feel the need to get away? Is life really that complicated that we need to escape it? Even if only temporary? Well, in a sense, yes, life really is that complicated, but I think the need goes way deeper than that. We are just but one species upon this vast planet, and it doesn’t take much to make us feel small. I think humans have an innate need to remind ourselves that we are just a tiny part of a greater whole. The world is so much bigger than what we see on our commutes back and forth to work, and part of our humanness is our need to feel and experience our natural surroundings.
There exists within us an intrinsic pull to go outside. For the most part, nature is an escape into the unfamiliar. Going into nature forces us to expose ourselves to the greater unknown. Nature is wild, which contrasts sharply with our domestic habits. It never ceases to amaze us today that humankind and nature once coexisted on an intimate level. “How did the cavemen ever do it?” I often wonder. Permanent camping. I can’t even imagine that lifestyle. I would’ve hated it on so many levels. I’m not even fond of sleeping in a tent because I get so damned cold. I can’t even fathom sleeping in a smoky cave or some other semi-permanent dwelling for the whole of my life. How did prehistoric humans survive all those generations? Imagine giving birth during that time. Gosh, what a horrific concept. But thousands (millions?) of women did it, time after time, generation after generation, for God only knows how many centuries. The gulf of time that separates us from our prehistoric forebears is so vast that my mind cannot even wrap itself around the thought of it. No one’s mind can think that far back, for it defies our ability to conceptualize.
For me, the closest I can get to understanding the concept of time is when I go into an old-growth forest. It is there, under the canopy of giant trees, that I can best communicate with ancestral beings.
There once was a time when much of the world was covered with ancient forests, but many of those forests are gone now, and only pockets of them have survived into the modern era. The risk of wildfires is always a constant threat, and the world continuously loses portions of these forests to the whims of the flames. A fire in 1926 destroyed nearly 75 percent of the over 1,000-year-old living cedar trees at Roosevelt Grove Park in Washington, for example, but it still was an awe-inspiring experience to walk around what remained when I visited there in the early 2000s. Nothing in the world compares to the beauty of seeing dappled sunlight filter through ancient trees, and a person needs to see it with one’s own eyes to understand its true majesty. The light in ancient forests is bewitching, and it imparts an indescribable sense of innocence and wisdom that defies explanation. Ancient forests just seem to know, and they are not shy about sharing their secrets.
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