Thursday, August 04, 2011

For love of nature

In the wake of my Ireland trip, I’ve been thinking a lot about nature and the natural world. Traveling across the Emerald Isle, seeing herds of sheep, cattle, goats and horses, especially my beloved Holstein black and white cows, makes me realize how different the rural areas are from the great city where I spend most of my time.

The only wildlife I see with any regularity is, unexpectedly, at the train station, where each afternoon I look for a small bunny rabbit that lives on a patch of lawn near the inbound platform. He’s usually there three or four days each week during the warm months of the year. Once I saw a doe outside my office building, but that’s a rare thing.

Seeing the awesome views of the Ring of Kerry and Killarney National Park makes me understand a little more about why the Irish love their land so much. There’s so much elemental beauty packed into that small country that it’s almost overwhelming. It would make almost any city dweller indulge in the fantasy of becoming a farmer and getting a fill of a slower, more peaceful existence with fresh air and being surrounded by living things instead of concrete.

I was telling a friend recently how I felt like, living in cities as I do, I am much more accustomed to the rhythm of city life than the rhythms of the natural world. I know exactly how to move through a crowded street to avoid collisions or injury. I instinctively know how much distance a train will take to stop at a platform so I can position myself at the door. I operate a car safely and efficiently when needed. I make a million tiny decisions each day to keep myself in synchronization with the rhythm and flow of my urban surroundings.

If I were to live in the country, I would get used to an entirely different rhythm. I would be better at predicting the weather without relying on the Internet. I would know how to walk on uneven ground without spraining my ankles. I would notice how plants and animals grew day by day, and the harvest dates of the year that I currently mark on my witches’ calendar would have much more immediate relevance to me. My activities would be dictated by sunlight rather than an arbitrary clock. I would be used to a slower pace in nearly everything I do.

In short, I’d be an entirely different person.

I think there’s a primal hunger in all of us for some kind of connection to the natural world, even if we’re not all cut out to live on farms. Seeing Ireland in all its majesty made me realize how important that connection is to me. I’m lucky that I don’t work in the city in one respect – I do get some exposure to nature outside the concrete jungle each workday, even if it’s just watching a rabbit graze in a field at the train station.