“Hello, Nature, show me what you’re doing.”
Before I delve into the deeper part of this piece, let me begin with a tip of the hat to our National Parks, State Parks, Refuges, Wilderness Areas, Preserves and Reserves, and to all those that dedicate their lives to any and all spaces that foster Nature and share its splendor. These spaces are our most precious resource in today’s tumultuous world. They reside as symbols of hope in a time of uncertainty.
As a whole, our species has been manipulated to believe we can thrive separate from and without Nature. We are just as much a part of Nature as the animals and trees around us, and, therefore, our relationship with Nature and our actions in this life have a direct, and returning result on our own lives. Nature is our life source. As we become further disconnected from it, the problems in today’s world will only be exacerbated.
I have seen it in the images captured by those in the air. I have seen it on the mountain sides far in the distance. I have witnessed it in cities as it glares at oblivious passerby. I feel it everywhere. We are living in a world that has been fragmented by the actions of our own species. We have fragmented our land, and we have fragmented our relation to the very Nature of which we are a part.
The reality of all of this became very apparent during a trip to Buffalo, New York. I started noticing how the attitude of people varied significantly based on the space they were in at the time. Those that were physically closer to Nature than others tended to exhibit a more calm and collective demeanor. They seemed happier, less agitated, and more caring than those I watched stroll through the streets, in and out of bars and businesses, pre occupied with the countless distractions of today’s modern society. Though Nature Space is often difficult to find in our bigger cities, it is most certainly present, and if you pay attention, it exhibits many of the qualities that exist in the much larger Nature Spaces of the world.
For those that know me, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that even the thought of a city gives me anxiety, and I’m generally apprehensive to visit them. On the rare occasions I do explore them, I make a valiant effort to seek out the small Nature Spaces that do exist within the confines of concrete, steel, and glass. I found several of these spaces during my time in Buffalo, and at each space, I found the same kind of energy that brings people true happiness. The happiness I am referring to is that which evokes kindness, and instills a sense of contentment among those that pay attention to these spaces. I truly believe that when this kind of happiness is found, the change our world is looking for, and the change it desperately needs will come easily.
The statements to follow describe some of the connective experiences I had during my time in Buffalo. I should point out that these experiences occurred for one person, in a small geographical area with limited Nature Space, and over the course of only three and a half days. Imagine the plethora of answers, enlightenment, and genuine happiness that would come if more of these Nature Spaces were available for the entire human population to experience.
June 6, 18 Wednesday morning, 6:36 am: At this hour of morning, the city is as quite as I can hope for so I’m taking advantage with a cup of coffee and a curious stroll down a street that, I hope, will lead to more familiar grounds. I come to a stop at the ground floor of a massive building. What I see is repulsive, but, after gazing at these symbols of hope, I somehow manage to recognize a sense of my place in the world and I’m encouraged to tell their story and the answers they want to show us. These wild animals behind the glass of what is a closed trophy hunting showcase room are on display behind doors that never opened during my time in New York. They were trapped in the city, out of their natural habitat, and among the uncomfortable confines of an over urbanized land. I can’t help but feel the same way they would, and I hastily begin looking for the nearest trail, park, Nature Space that I can steal away to for more answers.
June 7, 18 Thursday afternoon sometime: I’ve found an outdoor courtyard, I suppose you would call it, that has several landscaping trees, a raised bed of blooming flowers, and two small birds I presume are playing some sort of game as they go about scavenging for hidden gems in the cracks of the sidewalk. There are benches with a few folks gossiping and scrolling through their phones, huddled over pricey coffee drinks. In the corner of the courtyard, beside a bed of pink flowers, an old homeless man is sitting alone, eating french fries and a burger. I’m captivated. There’s a quality in the man that is lacking in many of the people here. Though he wastes no time finishing his fries, he is contemplative and calm. Whether it’s a good meal, or the space he’s found for a moment, a happy energy is in him. I like to think he’s found this small Nature Space by choice, and not chance. The courtyard birds have found an interest in me, and fly up to my bench, two feet from my lap, and investigate my thoughts. “Do you think you, your friend, the homeless man, and I are here to learn from each other?” I want to ask the two black capped chickadees beside me. I walk inside a small coffee shop across from the courtyard, order two coffees, and pass the second cup off to the homeless man without words. A subtle and heartfelt thank you from the man, and a brief exchange of harmony between both souls. As I’m walking away, I see the two birds fly up to the man and investigate his thoughts. “Do you think you, your friend, the stranger, and I are here to learn from each other?” The man contemplates some more.
June 8, Friday afternoon: I found a break to go explore for a few hours. Tifft Nature Preserve is about fifteen minutes by car (four miles) from Buffalo’s Pearl Street. Despite its proximity to an urbanized landscape, Tifft is a 264 acre Nature refuge, and soul refuge on my particular visit. The land, once a dairy farm turned city refuse site in the 50’s and 60’s, was purchased by the city of Buffalo and, through good intention, science, and hard work, was designated a preserve in 76’. It embodies the Nature Space I am advocating our societies to demand more of. Surrounded by trees (lots of large cottonwoods) and rehabilitated cattail marsh, the area has become a haven for local wildlife. The forest echoes the daily conversations of the local bird residents. I think about the saying people have in these moments, “this is worth protecting.” Because it is here, in these Nature Spaces, that we have a chance to reflect, and our inner self smiles, knowing it is in a familiar place that has long been forgotten. They are healthy, humbling places. They teach us our place in the grand scheme of everything and anything that we have come to know as a species, and afterwards, we are the better for it. A true body cleanse.
Space set aside is here to show us the soul of the Universe. They are places of hope and they provide us with answers. They offer peace during times of calamity. Some call it God. I call it Nature.
I believe the closer a relationship we develop with Nature, the closer our relationship to others becomes. Further, by pouring ourselves into these spaces and learning of their ways, we begin to learn about ourselves, and our purpose.
As our race pushes ahead at the current rate, and under the same false ideals, it is slowly erasing these Nature Spaces. As these spaces vanish, so too do the ethics and wisdom of an entire species.
Our problems of today, specifically those in the environment, are a direct result of the disconnect between the human species and the rest of Nature. That disconnect among the population will continue to grow if these spaces of Nature continue to dwindle. To care about the environment and Nature, people must know the environment and Nature. Our feelings, our soul, are at their strongest when we are directly connected to something. This, I am arguing, should reside as an awakening alarm to every single individual alive today, and especially to those that have been given the power to make decisions on behalf of the human race. It is my hope that this post is regarded as a call for getting back and giving back to Nature. As our population increases, it is absolutely critical for our own success as a species on this planet to begin creating more of these Nature Spaces. Our cities, our habits, our enterprises, institutions, and our interests are out of balance with the rest of the Universe. They have fragmented the land which has subsequently fragmented our relation to it.
We must experience our Nature by placing ourselves in it before we can begin to care about it. With that said, it should make sense for all our societies around the world to advocate for, and create more Nature Spaces to accompany a growing population. Everything depends on it.
The Earth exhaled. She gave the answers to the World. We Listened, and then there was peace and harmony among all.
-W. R. Weiland