Travel journal: No matter where we live, we need nature.
Where are we without nature? This question has struck me over the last week, spending time in the Canadian Rockies, far from city life and away from the usual distractions that keep life busy. It’s cold. There are mountains all around. It’s easy to walk ten minutes and feel in the middle of nowhere.
In a recent conversation about the importance of taking advantage of the present, a friend said “you could get killed by a bear on your run today,” I stopped at the reality of that sentence. Yes, I could get killed by a bear. I wouldn’t put it past the Canadian wilderness. There’s a sense of grounding in that reality.
I love being an urban dweller. But with a childhood of living in a hand-built house in the forest, there’s a part of me that needs the solace that can only be found in quiet spaces. Trade out the usual high density lifestyle for a few moments in mountain air and you’re immediately transported to a different mind space.
Nature fuels creativity, as is clear spending time at the Banff Centre for Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival. Our brains need time to disconnect, to readjust to a more natural rhythm, one that begins with a sunrise over the peaks and an afternoon of alpenglow. One where the sound of a raging river is ever present. One where clean air is a given. One where you take in the natural world, not because you choose to go out on an afternoon hike, or take a weekend drive to the country.
As Andrew Weil wrote in an article in Newsweek, “Human beings evolved to thrive in natural environments and in bonded social groups. Few of us today can enjoy such a life and the emotional equilibrium it engenders, but our genetic predisposition for it has not changed.”
I think often of author Richard Louv and his aptly coined term Nature Deficit Disorder. He is right in saying that “The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.” We need to find our balance, the balance that our bodies need and crave, and without, puts us on a path of modern physical and emotional pains. Stress and depression are all maladies of modern society.
Not that picking up your life, buying a cabin in the middle of the woods and settling down to write your memoir in a weathered leather journal by candlelight will solve all problems. Since we live in modern society, we must learn to function within its confines. To find a new balance, one that allows us to enjoy the amenities of urban life but that doesn’t keep us from forgetting how big of a force nature is in keeping us alive.
And not only alive, but fueled and inspired.
Images: Anna Brones