What Draws Us to Nature, to the Wild?

I recently read a blog post written by Julianne, a woman I met several years ago in Yellowstone National Park, a woman I admire for her spirit, her strength, her connection with nature.  She shares a blog, Writing the Wild, with two other friends, both women, both with strong voices and intensely personal relationships with wilderness, just like Julianne.  It’s a blog that draws me in deeper with each new post I read.  Julianne’s latest, Living in the Present, is deep and resonated with me immediately.  I found myself reflecting upon her message for days, and in that contemplative space the kernels of a blog post started to sprout.

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“The mountains are calling and I must go.” ~ John Muir

We recently returned from a trip up north, back to our winter home base in So. California.  Although I knew we were heading back to complete details for an exciting trip we have planned this fall, I felt this sadness as I reflected upon the trip we had just finished, where nature and the wild imbued our every cell daily.  I was not ready to step back into the modern-day trappings of excess and commercialism.

“Look deep into nature and  you will understand everything better.” ~ Albert Einstein

It seems the more time I spend in nature, the more I have this reaction when I step off the trails.  So I have asked myself, what draws us to nature, to the wild, even when it could potentially put us in harm’s way when we traverse the same land as predator species?

“I held my breath as we do sometimes to stop time when something wonderful has touched us…”  ~ Mary Oliver

Yes, we take to the trails and the rivers for our source of exercise, but I believe it goes beyond this.  Julianne certainly touched on it when she said that being in nature forces one to live in the moment, as it takes all our attention to navigate a flowing river in a kayak or avoid sliding off a mountainside on a steep trail.

“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.” ~ Edward Abbey

Living in the moment in the wild takes us to a place where we begin to move at nature’s pace, instinctual, perhaps due to a base need to reconstruct our lives.  Is it our soul’s longing to live free of the attachment we have developed to the various screens that have become an intrinsic part of our day-to-day existence, teeming with a set of perceptions on how well “liked” we are?   Or are we trying to salvage that indigenous part of us that once was wild?

“It is not half so important to know as to feel.” ~ Rachel Carson

A famous study conducted by the University of Illinois, Chicago, found that we spend 25% less time out in nature than we did in the late 1980’s.  If more of our society embraced nature and the wild, would we learn to live in harmony with our surroundings, be more at peace with ourselves and those around us?  Would we realize that we need less to live a life of fulfillment?

“I feel like lying down by the side of the trail and remembering it all.  The woods do that to you.” ~ Jack Kerouac

Nature is full of contrasts – rushed yet unhurried, quiet yet raucous, organized yet chaotic.  Even with this diversity, there is an underpinning of calm, a sense of serenity that eludes so many of us.  It is my hope each time I walk out of the wild that this sense of stillness will continue to reside in some deep recess of my soul, something I can draw from when day-to-day stresses arise.

“One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, “What if I had never seen this before?  What if I knew I would never see it again?” ~ Rachel Carson

“Nature never struggles to accomplish its purpose.  All things in nature live in a state of total grace and bliss, completely connected to life itself.”  I long to live this easy, effortless flow.

64 thoughts on “What Draws Us to Nature, to the Wild?

  • Stunning pictures, LuAnn! I can see why you take those marvelous hikes when you see all the wonder of what nature has created. Guess my nature is observing the local wild life and when I go to any public event, I love to people watch. Those are things I can do, not as exciting as yours, but nonetheless it’s mine. Bravo for an enlightening and personal blog, LuAnn.

    • I believe that getting outside, whether it is in our backyard or taking to a trail gets us in touch with nature, which is always good for our souls.

  • This is such a phenomenal post, all these breathtaking pictures, quotes that resonate, and your own wonderful thoughts. I found the bit about the UIC study particularly interesting; I was born in the mid-eighties and had the luck to be born into a farming family with tons of land that I was allowed to roam freely. Now that I live in a much more suburban/urban area just outside of Chicago, I’m incredibly lucky to have some fantastic forest preserves still around, and I try to get out there for at least a few hours a week. It’s a completely transformative experience. I wish I had the resources to visit different parts of the country as I have in the past, because experiencing the incredible things nature has to offer leads so some of the most exhilarating, humbling, and inspiring experiences I’ve ever had. The world is an awesome place, and we should consider ourselves lucky to get to be in it!

    • Thank you for your wonderful comment. I feel forever changed each time I step out into nature. Although I sit in front of a computer and am pulled into the social media arena like everyone else, my soul knows its rightful place is in the wild spaces. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Beautifully written, LuAnn. Taking the dogs for a walk in our local reserve is about the closest I get to being ‘out in the wild’ these days; though, it fills me with that sense of ‘living in the moment’, as you’ve written. Mind you, I can feel that sense of calm just harvesting a broccoli or spinach from the vegie patch for our evening meal! Yes, nature, and being close to nature certainly affords me a wonderful sense of peace and rightness; something I have always treasured.

    • I believe that we can experience nature, that sense of “wild” even in our backyard or garden. I believe just stepping away for a few minutes from our computers, from our daily stresses, breathing in the fresh air, getting are hands dirty, nourishes our soul. Yard work does it for me when I can’t get out on the trails.

  • Another great post, LuAnn. Those photos are soooooooooooo beautiful, I just want to sit and look at them, over and over. This post brings to mind that I feel if the children, who live in the inner cities, had an opportunity to be introduced to some of the country that you two have visited, with all that beauty, would be so much calmer and happier, and would be less apt to turn to crime, for entertainment.

  • Lovely photos and thoughts Lu Ann. I find that Nature is my source of spiritual joy and nothing else comes close. Being in Nature is the ultimate stress reliever and healer. I am grateful of every moment that I can spend in her beauty, away from the noise and rush of typical American life.

  • LuAnn your eloquent words and poignant quotes weave a magical post with these stunning photos. I was interested by the 25% less time spent in nature over not so many decades. Such a shame. Certainly your articles will be an inspiration to many to get out and explore.

    • Thanks Sue. I guess that percentage shouldn’t be surprising, given the explosion of electronic equipment now on the market for children of all ages to enjoy.

  • Beautiful post, LuAnn:) Your words flow so naturally. I love the photos and your choice of quotes!!! Being alone in the wild is so relaxing for me. I just love leaving people and daily noises behind. There is something so uplifting about hearing only the wind and birds, creating challenges and climbing to new heights. Even our hikes in the forest in Iowa were a welcome relief. No one but us and total quiet except for nature. Certainly put a huge smile on my face. My favorite was your closing photo…so peaceful and content:)

    • I know you share my thoughts Pam. There is nothing like having all your senses come alive when you step outside onto that path, is there?

      • I so struggle whenever we move east. It just isn’t the same as the mountains, rocks, and wide open views of the west. I can’t get over much I feel in love with hiking and being alone (with John) in natural surroundings:) Nothing compares:)

      • I can’t describe the feeling that came over me as I read this comment Pam, as I totally relate. I know how much you both love being near your kids and spending time with your mother, but the west, with her grand vistas is what feeds our souls (not that visiting family doesn’t contribute to that as well). 🙂

  • Oh yes, nature, wilderness, open spaces are soothing to my soul. On my recent road trip, I visited old haunts and places we had camped. Happy to say that most of it still exists and sad to see some places closed from overuse. There have been studies done (and don;t ask me how they figure this out) that show that if one just knows the wilderness is there it is psychologically uplifting, even without visiting it. Imagine how much more effective to actually be there. I am fortunate to come home to a quiet small town spread out over the ridges and valleys that has that same feeling of openness and quietude. Looking forward to hearing about your Fall adventure..

  • This is so beautiful, LuAnn. I discovered as a child that nature was the place that I felt most whole, healthy, and peaceful. I need that connection every day, on the deepest level of my being—some days it might just be a long walk in the park, and other days a challenging hike or a kayak adventure. But I rarely go a day without spending a significant amount of time outdoors, and if it’s in a wild place, all the better! Your photos are gorgeous—I especially love the one of you on the rocks, deep in contemplation. It makes me feel peaceful. 🙂

    • I so appreciate your comment Laurel. The older I get the more I need to be outside, in the woods, in the desert, in the mountains. As for the photos, interestingly enough, there are some in the post that didn’t pass the muster the first time around. When the topic changed to something more contemplative, they seemed to make sense. 🙂 It sounds like you two are having a wonderful summer…excellent!

  • Beautifully written and certainly something I can relate to at a very deep level. Thank you for this lovely post!


  • Your blog draws me and many others to nature! I think our natural instincts are still nature based, we aren’t really made mentally for this life we live and nature gives us peace and as you say the beauty is wonderful, the very idea of the vast expanse of years it has taken to form is amazing. The idea of being alone and peaceful is a massive pull as well, life in the built up world is lacking in so many things.

  • I love this post LuAnn. The photographs are beautiful – not just that they’re photographs of beautiful surroundings, but the way you’ve used the camera to capture it. I want your camera! And your eye.
    I so miss being in nature. I think when we’re in nature, close to the earth, being present with naturalness and wildness we can’t help but become more grounded, more in the body, more centred, and therefore happier. And therefore kinder.

    • Thank so much Alison. I do feel more grounded when in nature, sensing the interconnectedness between me and all living beings. Let’s round everyone up and get them into nature. We could do with a lot more kindness in this world.

  • Your words are magical! I know when I am out in nature… I am swallowed up by it all. I feel like I am part of it. Such a magnificent post you have written one again!

  • I find this post so deep and eloquent that it made me think and stop for a moment. It was only when we started this lifestyle that I realized Id rather be outdoors communing with nature than in urban areas. And Im very grateful this lifestyle is the instrument to my realization.
    The photos and the quotes are beautifully complementing one another and enhancing the messages. Beautiful post.

  • Nature is the best healer, the best relaxer and the best beauty spot. It gives us so much and in your blog we can see the untouched amazing nature as God has given to us. Love your quotes under the stunning pictures to make it a wonderful post. It does come over as you intended to do it.

  • What a gorgeous thought-provoking post LuAnn! I agree there is something spiritual and freeing about being in nature and outdoors. I feel the same way. It isn’t just the exercise which my body desperately needs but the freeing feeling of being completely in the mountains or the forest with only a backpack and nothing else. Nothing else matters at that very moment. It is the most amazing sense of freedom I ever feel in life.

  • I just think it’s within us now. Well for me, it’s more on traveling. That when I get stuck in my own area or place for a long time, or if I miss a weekend not going anywhere because of work and other responsibilities, I feel so incomplete. I find myself more anxious driven than usual. It does get depressing. 🙂 When I travel, like you said, I feel more alive. 😉
    You have become one of the best nature photographers and traveler in the blogosphere, Lu.

    • What you said resonated with me Rommel. Nature has a way of completing me, making me feel whole again. When we travel and experience new places and people, we feel this interconnectedness to everyone and everything. I am humbled by your comment Rommel, although I pale in comparison to your photos and travel posts.

  • LuAnn, Your blog reminds me of all the things I love about nature: the stillness, the sounds, the beauty, the joy, the storms, the connectedness to my soul. Since I was in my teens, I have been a fan of Emerson and Thoreau, the transcendentalists or pantheists. I truly believe we are not separate from nature, but are one with it. Thank you for the reminder. Lovely photos and quotes as well.

  • I can understand your reluctance to return to an everyday routine after exploring some of the beautiful places you’ve pictured. Your photos are spectacular and I especially love the first one which is truly a “Paint Your Landscape” picture with its brilliant blue skies and the fall colors of the trees. This was a lovely post, both for the pictures shown and the thoughtful quotes that accompanied them. Thanks for sharing! Anita

  • I dont have words to describe those photos. Theyre incredible. I believe engulfing ourselves in nature makes us realize that modern society is unnecessary. The majority of our so called “Civilization” is based on over indulgence of our passions, but neglect of our spirits. Nature forces us to try to balance our wants with our needs. Society wants us to over indulge in our wants, so that our needs, mostly mental, get abandoned.

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