My husband Ed says that one reason society is so screwed up today is that we have removed ourselves more and more from nature. He thinks humans are meant to commune with nature, that we actually are part of nature and thus nature complements us. He says that every step of processing our food, for instance, is one more step away from food as nature made it. He said touching a tree soothes the soul, being out on a sunny day improves the disposition, and the changing of the fall leaves renews one's spirit.
I've thought about his ideas lately because in Maine at this time of year people try to get back to nature. Around here, the primary objective for tourists is, of course, Acadia National Park. Each summer the cars with out-of-state licenses are lined up for miles, aiming for those beautiful acres of forest and mountains on the ocean's edge.
Ed loves to hike. One day he hiked in Acadia, got lost, and ended up hiking for 8 hours on what was supposed to be a 2-hour walk. I once agreed to go on a "walk" with him at Acadia. I soon found out that a "walk" to me and a "walk" to him were two different things. He hikes for hours, and I like to walk as fast as I can for 15 minutes, then turn around and head back. Thirty minutes of exercise. Needless to say, after my complaining and his complaining about my complaining, we agreed that day that we would share other activities but never go "walking" together again.
I do love nature. I really do! At a distance. Through a window, or at least a screen. I realize now that any journey to simplicity must involve a truce between me and nature. I freely admit this will be difficult for me. So what do I have against nature? It's either too hot or too cold or too wet or too humid or too windy. I don't like dirt or mud either. Those "mud pies" we used to make in the backyard using little foil pot-pie cups have lost their allure.
I absolutely hate bugs, although they love me. The Maine blackfly effects some kind allergic reaction in me and I swell up at the site of its attack. Flowers are gorgeous, but where there are flowers there are bees. Yes, I know bees perform a valuable humanitarian service, one that is necessary for ecological purposes, but when I was a little girl I had a bee fly up my sleeve at recess on the playground at East Elementary School and since then bees have made me quite nervous. It didn't help matters when a couple of years ago I was taking a walk down a country road and a bee chased me for a good mile. I didn't know I could run that fast. See - even when I try to get back to nature, I am thwarted.
Ed used to preach that when God told Moses to take off his shoes, that he was on holy ground, it was not so much about the fact his shoes would desecrate the ground - it was that Moses needed his bare feet to be in direct contact with the ground so the "current of holiness" could go through his body. Now me, I never go barefoot outside. I am glad God has never asked me to do so. Our son-in-law is constantly amused at our insistence on wearing shoes. He's not a hillbilly - he's an educated teacher - but he was raised to run barefoot all summer. The idea just freaks me out. There are so many things that would be dangerous to step on, and eww...the dirt and mud!
Jesus said we must become like little children, and that's one thing kids do enjoy - the outdoors and nature in all her glory. And somewhere in my inner child I remember walking home from school, going by the Pink Palace museum and climbing up onto a low-lying branch of the deodar tree (I know it was a deodar tree because it had a plaque on it stating that fact) and just resting there, mulling over the events of the day, and - yes - talking to the tree. Since I have grown up, I am, like many other adults, a fan of the creature comforts in life: Heat, air conditioning, floors, walls, windows and screens. And comfy chairs to sit in so when you get up you won't have wet grass and dirt on your pants.
I think this is a good goal for Caroline to help me with.