This piece is about a moment in which I questioned my relationships with nature and society.
The moody, gray sky gave off a languid aura, obstructed only by a ribbon of clouds and the sporadic lone seagull. Creating a small glare in my eyes, the sun poked out from behind the horizon, releasing the skinny beams of light that rested on the pebbles and vines in front of my feet. As I walked further from civilization, I could feel my senses sharpening. I heard the crunching beneath my feet at every step, the whistling of the wind flying past my ears, and the crashing of waves before they fizzled out into oblivion. I took notice of the hidden beauties I would have usually overlooked, observing the spoondrift glittering above the waves, my visible breath in the cold air, and the pattern of the stones on the ground. The rain from the night before created a smell that was a briny mix of petrichor and sea water, and it left the gravel moist, which caused a small collection of earth to form at the bottom of my shoes. Bursts of the cold ocean breeze kept interrupting the feeling of brisk air on my skin as if the universe was telling me not to get comfortable. On my left was the never ending ocean whose water was just dark enough that I couldn’t make out how deep it was, and on my right was an opaque forest, which seemed to get denser as I kept walking.
Reaching the end of the path, I looked towards the woodland and saw a mess of leaves concentrated in one spot. Feeling a tug of exploration, I decided to get a closer look. I pulled back the foliage to find a small glade that seemed completely secluded from the outside world. The trees, unusually close-packed and enclosing the space, almost completely covered the sky. A boulder, in the center, hidden both in the deep soil and by the abundance of flora surrounding it, demanded my attention. The harsh weather of the forest was reflected in its deep-creased scars, erosions that I could tell were older than me.
The boulder was reminiscent of an old man who had experienced everything life had to offer, whose knowledge could only be gained through time, and who had nothing left to do but rest. It radiated a primal wisdom which let me realize that this was the closest thing to divinity I had ever experienced. This was the only part of the world that had been here since the beginning. While different species lived and died, nature had always been there. We didn’t create it, and it would be more accurate to say that it created us. In the face of something so profound, I understood how insignificant the mundane complexities of human life were. All of the things that crowded my mind, the things I would stop thinking about in two weeks and then completely forget about in a year, meant nothing compared to this, this which had been here long before me and would be here long after I was gone.
The words of Henry David Thoreau echoed in my mind: “we can never have enough of nature”. I finally understood what he meant. This unique fulfillment that came from nature, that rejuvenated me after enduring society's hardships, was more important than the fleeting happinesses that civilization granted me. There was just something special that came with being a part of this sphere that was so much greater than myself. Thoreau believed that the independence and simplicity of a self-sustaining, nature-centered life granted a feeling of completeness that was lost in the convoluted, greed-driven, human-governed world. He spent two years of his life in a cabin by a pond to live his philosophy. He grew his own food, lived alone, and spent all of his time writing and thinking. Being in the forest I saw his perspective more clearly, but I still held doubt that this ideology could become widespread. Did he expect everyone else to live like he did? Was that even possible?
Alone with my thoughts, my mind wandered to things that existed outside of this setting. I began to think about grades, deadlines, and material things, when I started hearing a long droning sound, which seemed to pervade everything around me, blocking out the sounds of the waves crashing and the leaves rustling in the wind. At the same time, a shadow enveloped my surroundings, covering the tiny bit of natural light that made it past the leaves and into the glade. I looked up to see a plane flying overhead. Even in this haven of nature, the artificialities of society creeped in, eclipsing nature's place in my mind.
Was I wrong to let these thoughts consume me? I felt like I was violating something sacred to bring the burdens of society to this place. But at the same time, I couldn’t just let go of that part of me. Something told me I needed to make a decision. I was in between two worlds and had to decide how I was going to live moving forward. The feeling of calmness and contentment that nature brought me was something that I had never felt anywhere else, and there was a certain emptiness that came with living in our human society. But cooperation and advancement were fundamental parts of being human, and living like Thoreau meant giving them up. Should we sacrifice what makes us human to strengthen our relationship with the eternal thing that is nature? Perhaps in Thoreau’s time there was less comfort to being part of society's machine, or maybe his profession of writing was easier to pursue in solitude than others. But that nature-centric life just didn’t suit me.
I wanted to be connected with nature and what it instilled in me, but I didn’t want to sever myself from civilization. I wanted to be part of a community and feel the comforts of technology, while still carrying an intimate connection to nature in my life.
The forest had proved insightful; I now know what I need to do. I need to find my balance.