Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Touch of the Wild

There is a section of a scenic highway on my way to work that enlivens my otherwise bland commute. Especially in spring, the sights fill the senses. It rained last night and this morning the sky looks as if it has been scrubbed clean to let its pure blue shine through. Hills and valleys lie in repose and eagles soar above the oaks and the willows. Here and there yellow mustard and orange poppies make the green meadows appear even greener.

Between two roads named Deer Creek and Coyote Hill, I catch a glimpse of white and chestnut horses basking in the fullness of spring sunshine. What compels my attention, though, is a colt that seems to be dancing rather than running, and a woman pursuing it with glee, coaxing it to eat oats out of a bucket she is holding. The two are engaged in a tango, and the sense of playfulness between animal and human is palpable.

A few minutes later I am at my desk, turning on computers and preparing to spend yet one more day of my life working with “productivity tools,” email and the Web. It is when I am about to save my work an hour later, in the service of a Silicon Valley company that pays my bills, that it hits me: what I am doing chained to my desk indoors when life is expressing itself with such force and zest outdoors? I cannot shake off the image of the frisky colt. A sadness slowly seeps into my day.

It is almost impossible now to imagine a day without the Web. That's understandable, given how deeply it has become woven into our lives. But what is tragic is how easily we have learned to pass our days without a single contact with nature. True, these are desperate times. People are losing their livelihood and their homes. Soup kitchens cannot keep up with demand. A cruel recession has already taken on the signs of a depression. Who has time for nature?

But that's precisely what we must make time for as we turn inward for solace and give up things we had no use for in the first place. A less cluttered life looks more and more appealing. Thoreau's call for simplicity resonates. We are rich, to paraphrase the Bard of Walden, in proportion to the number of things we can afford to let alone. To put this into practice, we ought to renew our relationship with nature, to go for a walk in the woods, to take to the trails, to look with fresh eyes at the trees and the birds where we live, to grow something in the backyard or on the window sills. I know I will because I can think of no better way to clear my perspective and cleanse my soul.

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