Within each of us, there is a language we once knew. It bound us to the land, and served as our lens to see and understand the ways of our natural world. That lost language showed us our place and purpose among Nature.
To demonstrate, take some time to reflect on those moments when we’re aware of our presence among the grandeur. We document that moment, often with a photograph, only later to find out that a photograph doesn’t capture the essence of the experience. This is the language of the natural world. Attainable only by our will to let go of our pre conceived notions, pride, and comforts in an effort to open our minds to the universe with hopes that our souls will know when to dance. It’s a language we can only understand by being in that moment and listening to a voice that has the power to briefly take us back to a world that is both familiar, and unknown. It is a primitive world, and one which each of us has the ability to connect with on a deep, and very real level. That voice is our Nature. It is the Earth. It is a world separate from ours, but one that chooses when and where we have the opportunity to step over and into the other side, even if for only a brief moment.
Near the end of this past September I was on my third visit of four in Shenandoah National Park when I began developing a refined perspective that has strengthened my respect for all the wild that makes up our natural world. The lost language revealed itself and it will forever remain with me, residing as a guide along life’s trail of unknowns.
Scribblings of perspective from a campground:
A weather system has moved over the mountain. There’s a steady cold rain tonight that refuses to heed our wishes for a dry camp. Sitting beside the heat of a fire and gazing into the depth of the woods adjacent to what we’ll be calling home for the next few days, I find myself listening to this voice of a separate world that encircles the camp. I’m trying to understand the language of our natural world. It’s a humbling voice I hear, and one that speaks of our relation to it, and how we have segregated ourselves from it. I gaze into the deep forest as a heavy fog begins to blanket our side of the mountain and a falling sun signals the end of a day. Darkness has fallen. And the wild world around me instills a sense of loneliness. As if looking down from the tops of the trees onto my own campsite, I see myself sitting by the fire, contemplating the way of things, the universe, looking out into the woods, comforted and terrified at the same time. I find comfort in my fire, the automobile I used to get here, the best outdoor equipment you can buy, a loving girlfriend, and a liberal cup of bourbon, and at the same time I’m longing to step over and into that other side. My soul burns to escape the world our species has created. I feel restless and want to walk off and into that unknown, because the answers, I know, are just past the last tree I see on the horizon. But then, learning more of the language with each prevailing breeze, I hear the voice, and the forest tells me I should learn a little bit at a time. The time to step across that line and into this other world separate from mine is not now. There is much to learn before we find the end of the trail.
Fire is stoked for a couple more minutes, just long enough to sift through some of the thoughts and questions I have now that this conversation with a forest has come to an end. A tip of the hat to Nature. Always offering advice and giving us the answers we need. I have mine for the moment. Off I head to the comforts of a tent. A new day, new conversations, and new contemplation await. There is much to learn and wisdom to acquire in this quest to understand the lost language of our natural world.