The rain has returned to Portland again, and the seasons have changed, officially. Our relationship with the elements shifts. Where once we welcomed sunlight with open arms, we now greet the cold and damp from beneath layers of raincoat, windbreaker, sweater, turtleneck. Multitude shades of grey lay like a heavy blanket on top of everyday life in the Great Northwest. It feels like the bright and hopeful days of spring are SO FAR AWAY! And, perhaps I have a penchant for hyperbole and the over-dramatic, don’t I?
At times like these, I work hard to remind myself how important it is to maintain a healthy relationship with our natural surroundings. We attribute values of “good” or “bad” to weather and other natural occurrences, often without considering 0ur current position in the natural cycle that makes this planet a hospitable place for human beings, (and many other lifeforms), to exist. The truth is, we need the rain. We need down-time. We need the quiet, and the cold. We need to feel the natural pattern that helps keep life ebbing and flowing along, year after year. But, if we don’t have an intimate connection with the natural world around us, what does that mean for how we interact with each other, and the world around us? Let me unpack some of that, and see what we come up with…
Modern humans spend most of their time in a fabricated un-reality. We surround ourselves with concrete and pavement and glass and steel. We literally put ourselves in boxes, “protecting” ourselves from the harsh elements and violence of the “uncivilized” world around us. We learn to believe that our water comes from a faucet, our milk comes from a cardboard carton, our meat comes wrapped neatly in styrofoam and cellophane. There is no reason for us to get our hands dirty, but if by chance we do, we have our handy bottle of sanitizer to keep the germs at bay. This way of living has produced documented physical and psychological pathologies including morbid obesity, depression, and bipolar disorder. Living in this kind of environment is actually causing a devolution, rapidly working against natural selection to produce humans who cannot functionally survive outside an urban area. If we don’t stop this, we are doomed.
There are so many reasons why a relationship with your natural surroundings is important. For example:
1.Witnessing firsthand the natural processes of creation and destruction that shape the world around us, we learn to respect the natural processes of life and death.
2. Learning where our food comes from inspires us to think creatively about the meaning of the word “sustainable”, and gives us a personal perspective on realistic sustainability.
3. Engaging the opportunity to climb a mountain, or run through a forest, or swim in a river; to feel dirt and rocks with bare feet, or watch a sunset on a horizon unencumbered by power lines and high-rise office buildings; to be enveloped by the thrill of exploring a place you have never been, and trying something new just because you can; all these helps us learn self-confidence. They teach us how to test our boundaries, as well as the value of exploring outside our comfort zone.
4.Each time we step onto a secluded beach, each time we enter a forest under the boughs of 1000 year old trees; each time we feel the icy sting of snow melt and feel smooth river rocks beneath our feet, we are presented with the opportunity to let go of our desire to control and for a moment, simply get in where we fit in.
5.If we are lucky, our experiences allow us to feel the rhythm and fathom the power we are surrounded by, and perhaps, for a moment we recognize how insignificant we are in the grand scheme of life on Earth. Hopefully, we are grateful for the opportunity to see and hear and feel things that are REAL.
6. Being in nature helps ground us in reality. We are reminded of the natural order of being, and we are reminded that life on this planet is made up of an intricate web of relationships. We remember how simple life can be, and how fulfilling simplicity can be.
I encourage you to take some time this weekend, and re-establish your own connection with the natural world around you. Take time to get away from the madness of civilized life and get your mind right. Drop me a note and let me know what your natural connection feels like. Until next time…