Throughout my entire life I have had a contentious relationship with the great outdoors.
When I was a child, my mother tried with every ounce of her being to keep us involved with nature despite Parental Directive One: keep your clothes clean (this is not hyperbole – there seemed to be no greater crime than this by four-year old Maurice’s recollection). Mom has the greenest of possible thumbs, can rattle off everything in her garden, knows where to put them, how to best water them and what to do to promote their growth. I spent many hours of childhood life lugging huge bags of peat, mulch, and fertilizer. I have rearranged the garden with her. There is a lot of sweating involved. I have even gone so far as to reluctantly water her plants while she was on vacation many times. I feel accomplished if, in my care, there is only a fifty percent attrition rate among the plants under my scrutiny.
I am not a gardener.
My dad has taken me on many fishing trips in union County, Pennsylvania. Mostly these trips happen at one of two times: swamp ass season, or freezing season. Fishing involves putting up with incessant amounts of mosquitoes, getting my bait stolen by crayfish, being soaked from shin to toe in the freezing cold, and, again, it involves lots and lots of sweat. I loved these trips, but there was a lot of discomfort involved in the actual fishing parts. Enough that I’d hold on taking a crap until I could do so in a restaurant bathroom down in the valley. Because nature does not have running water and septic plumbing.
I am also a poor fisherman.
When I look around at my friends, I am surrounded by people who love the idea of nature and spend as much time as they can in and about it. Some of them talk about simpler times. About making a connection to the planet that brought us here. The joy of seeing animals in their habitat. How they are playing a part to cultivate it through careful selection and encouragement of flora and fauna. Some of them like the solitude. Others love the beauty of it on the whole and let’s be clear, nature is beautiful. Most people like the idea of those wide spaces where we can be free to…
I dunno, I don’t feel it. Despite the best efforts of both parents and being surrounded by people who seem able to appreciate nature on a deeper level than myself, I just… I can’t tell you why, but when I hear the call of nature my first instinct is to put it on hold. For as long as possible. To remain in climate controlled space and do my thing inside, as far away from insects, pollen, and poison ivy as humanly possible.
To keep my clothes clean.
Thanks mom and dad!
Don’t get me wrong – nature is the baseline for everything and I know that it’s essential to keep our forests and water sources as untouched as we can – biodiversity and environmental balance is essential for life on earth. I’m not a ‘drill baby, drill’ guy who wants fracking and more of the same oil spill disasters to keep happening. I respect nature and generally am good about trying to reuse and recycle things, not to waste water, all that good stuff.
I just like to keep a couple of walls, doors, and windows between me and nature. Frequently. Because, call me a bad person, I don’t like being outside all that much with exception of the beach and the occasional walking trail.
Whenever I hear someone say that they wished for simpler times and a more natural way of life, I don’t think of the Waltons, or sitting in a field chewing on a hay stalk and looking into a wondrous sky. I think of dying of Dengue Fever or being mauled by a bear. Because in more natural, simpler times, without my unnatural tools that humanity has learned to create and develop, that’s what’s more likely to happen. Nature clearly wants me dead – it gave me severe nearsighted vision, diabetes, small ineffectual hands, and a buttload of allergies. By nature’s laws, I should be dead several times over. Fever seizures as a kid. Inner ear issues that are easily infected. The ungodly number of preventable diseases I may have been exposed to were it not for my vaccinations. Pneumonia. Broken bones. Swine flu.
Modern times get me through all of that so much better than simpler times.
My point is that nature’s all well and good and we can’t separate ourselves from it wholly – but I can’t just lose myself in it and get cuddly with something that indifferently tries to kill me at random opportunities. We shouldn’t be made to feel bad for not feeling the connection to nature either. I always get the impression that the outdoorsy people look over at me and wonder what’s wrong with me. All of this outside to play in and I retreat to virtual worlds contained in my XBox.
Shake your head if you like. It’s okay. Someone has to get mauled by bears – you can try your hand at it if you like. I won’t stop you.
But, inside has video games, AC, and my iMac – that thing I write on. And I like those.