Monday, October 29, 2012

Getting in Touch With Nature

That call of the wild feeling is starting to creep up on me again. For some reason I have this crazy desire to, and I quote, "get back to nature."

What does that even mean?

In a world of 24-hour connectivity, it's hard to actually get in touch with nature as much as we need to. Society has somehow expanded the Motel 6 slogan of "we'll live the light on for you" to the entire world. In the big city (and the sprawling suburbs where I live) the lights never go off. Some store may close, but the idea of a time of quite and relaxation really doesn't happen very often. Air pollution is being joined by light pollution and noise pollution to really put a damper on our health.

I grew up during the tail end of the Blue Laws here in Texas. When I was growing up most stores closed, at the latest, 9 p.m. — most were closing earlier — and everything was closed on Sunday, except the church house and the Waffle House. But every now and again there would be that one place of business, a convenience store, a restaurant, a truck stop, that would stay open 24 hours.

Never closing. At first it was fun to have something to do at 2 in the morning. Then something changed. Twenty-four hour eateries are ubiquitous (uh-oh, somebody's been looking at the thesaurus). There are plenty of restaurants and shopping venues that never shut the doors. you can get anything from cigarettes to fresh underwear any time of the day.

While that is no doubt convenient, sometimes I just want to get away and be a cowboy — living on beans and bread, singing by the campfire at night before turning in and sleeping peacefully under the stars. I want to experience nature like that. For most of humanity's existence we have tried to make life easier, simpler. Now, we are lucky if some of us take two weeks off to go somewhere to "roughing it" for a while.

I'm not really a camper, per se. I can probably count on two hands and a foot, the number of times I've slept outdoors. There were a half a dozen or so times as a kid, a week in the Army and a handful of times as an adult. Roughing it for me usually means staying at a hotel with a plastic cups, thin towels and sand on the sheets.

But that longing for the freedom of my ancestors comes calling every now and again. I guess we all l have a desire to "touch" nature because we are natural beings. The elements you find in the human body are found everywhere in the world. The body has oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and magnesium. There's also small amounts of copper, zinc, selenium, molybdenum, fluorine, chlorine, iodine, manganese, cobalt and iron. And trace amounts of lithium, strontium, aluminum, silicon, lead, vanadium, arsenic, bromine. It's pretty easy to see that we are as natural as trees, water and Twinkies (which, ironically, also have trace amounts of lithium, strontium, aluminum, silicon, lead, vanadium, arsenic, bromine).

Most of us like to be with people like us. We long for it and find a way to pass the time with like-minded folks, who bring us joy.

Maybe that call of the wild is really just something inside of us yearning to get in touch with something familiar.

Soon, I will have to answer the call. I'm sure I'll eventually break out my tent and spend some time under the stars, near a babbling brook, sleeping to the sound of crickets and the generator keeping my laptop charged, just like the cowboys did.

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