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The Great Outdoors


Summer is the time we escape from our shelters and emerge, blinking heavily, into the sunlight. Off come the jackets and sweaters and on go the shorts and tank tops. The barbecue grills are pulled out from under their covers, and the tents are pulled from their storage places and dusted off for use.

We are meant to be outside. We have a connection to nature that goes back to our days dwelling in caves. We need to feel a part of the natural world as well as the manmade world. We tend to feel peace when in nature; it’s a place where we can cleanse our souls of the toxins of everyday life. It’s a place where we can feel wonder and awe.

We spend most of our lives hermetically sealed, locked in air conditioned offices, heated homes, cars that whiz by without seeing anything more than road signs. We literally don’t notice the trees sometimes, so intent are we on getting from one place to another. That’s the shame of it all; we lose our connection with that which centers us. It throws us off-balance and takes us out of our rhythms. We stop feeling our own essence in our mad quest to march to somebody else’s rhythm.

Unfortunately, we all can’t just hug trees and otherwise commune with nature all day – stuff needs to get done. That doesn’t mean we should ignore it altogether however. The need is deep within us, the need to feel a part of the natural world. Without that contact, we feel lost and alienated like a rudderless ship on the deep blue sea, relying on the tides to keep us in the right direction. Any sea captain will tell you that’s not a good position to be in.

We often bring the natural indoors in an attempt to make that natural world more accessible; indoor plants, flowers, pets – they are all part of our ongoing need to be part of nature. It helps, but a potted fern isn’t the same as being out in the sunshine among the trees and the grass. Parks help too but they are controlled usually and meant to be gathering spots for people more than places to connect with Mother Nature. No, we need wildernesses; places where the grass isn’t mown, the plants aren’t watered once a day and that aren’t neat and orderly. Nature is wild, and she calls to that part of our selves that is wild too.

That is why when the weather permits we flock to places where we can be part of the world. Beaches, forests, deserts, mountains, rivers, meadows – wherever we can find a place where the sun shines and there aren’t cars and buildings and people. We need that space from each other. Of course, sometimes I’ll see someone walking around a beautiful park with an iPhone glued to their ear, or texting and gaming while all around them is this awesome beauty. People like that are clueless; you wonder why they bother at all.

Of course, there are always those who don’t feel comfortable in nature; they are dedicated “city folk,” people who never venture into places that aren’t inhabited. There’s nothing wrong with that although personally I feel it must be really hard to maintain your center when you don’t know what your center is. I could be wrong about though.

As much as we need to be connected to each other, we need that connection to nature just as strongly. It is a part of our selves; it is a part of our soul. We are inextricably linked to the natural world as we are a part of it. We may have changed the world to suit our needs, but the world that we came from is still part of us. We ignore that part of us at our peril.

So put on your swimsuits and find a lake to plunge into. Put on your walking shoes and find a nature trail. Dust off that pup tent and head out into the wilderness. It’s summer time. Take advantage of it.

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