I’ve been feeling hemmed in lately, I’ve been trapped by the invisible barriers that border the roads and streets around my home; my prison is a white Volvo wagon with its evil air conditioning and lumbar supporting leather seats. Sometimes I break out if I’m feeling daring and walk down the sidewalks that border the roads before returning home without ever having to step foot on anything but smooth man made surfaces. I never really thought I missed being truly outside, in the woods far enough that there was nothing to be seen but trees, or shin deep in a creek uncomfortably standing on slippery, uneven rocks but I was deprived. Everywhere I went I drove, in the process losing touch with nature in a manmade world of 90 degree angles and fabricated beauty.
I grew up in a rural area of Canada, Sussex New Brunswick to be exact; fondly known as “the dairy center of the Maritimes” for anyone interested in seeing some Holstein cows and round hay bales scattered across a late summer’s field. There is no shortage of natural beauty in New Brunswick, blazing red wooded hills in the fall, ice cold streams running over colorful river rock, bluish tinged snow weighing down the boughs of a fir tree reflecting the light of a full moon. I guess like everything else you take things like that for granted when you see them daily. More than that I started hating the rural feel of home, everything seemed so helter-skelter and random, there was no master plan; there was no border between nature and progress. I thought everything looked so messy and disorganized, I loved straight lines and clean edges on the landscape, if nature wanted to come in it had to be civilized and controlled. I had a small lawn mowing operation and nothing made me feel like I’d accomplished something more than laying down lines on the blank canvas of a green lawn, stripes we called them, the straighter and more consistent the better. I had beaten back nature for a few days until the grass grew up again and shoved back against the stamped steel deck and whirling blades of a machine designed to keep its foot on the neck of Mother Nature. I loved the newer developments in town where roads were bordered by neat curbs and sidewalks, the houses blended nicely with each other, similar in design and painted with a matching palette of color. Trees and shrubs that were allowed in were kept trimmed and manicured, accents they were, illuminated at night with landscape lighting, who needed the moonlight anymore we could do better. This is what civilization should look like I thought. This was multiplied when I came to Huntersville, everything was new and clean, everything looked like a golf course, lawns like carpet, flowers planted in straight rows, fountains bordered by symmetrical, neatly trimmed hedges, stray leaves blown away and vacuumed up during the night it seemed. I soaked in this landscape like a sponge for months, happily driving back and forth watching nature go by from behind power windows, but something was missing.
It turns out that man-made natural settings do nothing for the soul, walking down a tree-lined path is about as nutritious for the soul as plastic broccoli is for sustaining life. There is no doubt that parks and greenways are all pleasing to the eye and will get you through but there is no replacement for untouched, unplanned natural settings. Everyone should spend some time in the wilderness, out of the earshot of modern life and out from under the weight of digital coverage if there is still such a place. If you sit on a fallen tree in the forest you begin to notice that even with nature’s seemingly disorganized nature it all makes perfect sense. The bark on the tree you’re sitting on is an intricate pattern, the colors blend and sooth your mind, the sounds make your heart rate slow, the completeness of your surroundings let your mind wander onto deeper things you’ve been too distracted to consider. Interestingly just letting a manicured landscape become overgrown will not have the same effect, until nature can grind off the edges and crack mans borders it just looks like confusion has taken over. I’m not ready to become a hermit just yet; and yeah when I planted my fruit trees I set them in straight lines beside the rectangular bordered garden but I’m going to make sure get out of the car and off the beaten path once in a while to recharge before going back to everyday life.