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.