A famous naturalist, Ralph Waldo Emerson, once advised us to “Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air…” These words resonate timelessly, and as children, we live accordingly, allowing ourselves to be captivated by everything that is.
When I grew up, like most children, I was mesmerized by excavating ant holes in my backyard. The trees were my playground, and I can remember falling from their heights each day. With scrapes and bruises, the insects were still to be dissected, and the leaves were for drowning in. In these odd pleasures, childhood was pure joy. My greatest worry was whether my mom made my peanut butter and jelly correctly, akin to my preferred formula (for your information, both sides peanut butter, generous layer of jelly in the middle).
Nature gives us a sense of euphoric joy, and the washing waves of calm extinguish almost all our worries; if nature fails to, it still succeeds at giving us the ability to calm down, and think, simply fueled by the ambiance in this earth. This phenomenon has even been studied, and children with ADD and ADHD, when exposed to nature, have the ability to concentrate significantly more. Kids like me, rambunctious children with 5-second attention spans, still found ourselves able to concentrate a little more, but this time on the chirp of the birds, and the whistling of the wind in the leaves.
Sadly though, as I grow older, I find myself no longer climbing trees or excavating ant holes. I no longer perform my own insect autopsies, or drown in the waves of dried, kaleidoscope leaves. My life is regulated by the onslaught of homework, burden of extra-curricular activities, and the cliché teenage worries. There are other busy people like me though, who live extremely different lives, along with the stereotypical crowds of people who race to the daily grind, just in their hope to slave for a promotion; these are the people that make up the majority of Americans We rarely see the beauty in the natural world. We rarely listen to the whisper of the wind, the shifting colors of the autumning leaves, and the staccato peck of the woodpeckers.
Why is this happening? Why have we let go of this calm, this joy? Its’ because we’ve changed, we’ve changed as a society. We no longer relish in the beauty of nature; we now worship the flat-panel TV, the mechanical play of video games, and other methods of withdrawal from our overburdened lives. But we only end up stowing away our woe. Without the calm nature provides, life seems to rush by, too quickly for us to savor, to enjoy.
This isn’t the ultimatum for our society though. And you don’t have to be an unshaven, liberal arts loving hippie to enjoy nature. I went for a walk last week, to go meet friends, but on the way I simply unplugged myself from my mp3 player. I really listened to the birds for the first time in awhile. And in this, I once again found the same sense of calm that I’d found in mining ant holes, in ascending the branches in the trees. I found that indescribably, euphoric calm.
For our society to find this peace, we must return to living in the sunshine, swimming in the sea, and drinking the wild air which surrounds.
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