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Only Natural


I’ve always been rather ambivalent about the natural world.
Oh, I knew it needs to exist and all, what with it being the whole basis of life. And it always looked lovely as I zipped by it on the interstate on my way to wherever. But I never felt the need to go out of my way to seek it out, to commune with it, as the saying goes.
My encounters with nature have not been successful. I hit a deer once. On my birthday. In my first new car. So I’ve never been one to sadly moan “awwww” when I’ve seen deer roadkill on the side of the interstate.
My brother always tried to drag me into nature, but I’ve since wised up. It took me awhile, but I finally realized the more he assured me we were going on “a beginners’ hike,” the more likely I’d be hanging onto a tree perpendicular to a cliff, worrying that I hadn’t been to confession in 35 years. He’d be up ahead saying things like, “Did you see that? I‘ve never seen a bear that close!”
We briefly went through a camping phase, essentially carrying truckloads of gear designed to keep nature at bay. We’d go to campgrounds that had hacked down most of what was originally there and replanted it with a much more acceptable brand of growth providing shade and protection from the “elements,” another way of saying “nature.”
It’s fun to write about nature. I used to look out my window when we lived on a five-acre farmette and write about what was out there. To be honest, though, that’s not really natural since the land had been cleared, planted and built on. But town people think that’s nature because nothing is paved.
I don’t like to read about nature, even when it’s well-written. The author always sounds like he’s having a better time than I am. I perceive a bit of smugness because he has the wherewithal to suffer the inconveniences of nature in order to relate this vivid account while I’m sitting in my armchair eating Tostidos and drinking a beer.
Pictures of nature are okay, I suppose. They’re interesting from a prosaic standpoint, but with those high-powered zoom lens everyone has these days, stunning photos are rather commonplace.
Then we moved to our new house which is smack dab in the middle of, surrounded by, in fact, buried in nature. There is no separating yourself from it. It seeps in through the siding and storm windows. If necessary, it attaches itself to your dog in order to gain access to your brand new living room rug. Like the seven plagues of Egypt, we’ve been inundated at different times by caterpillars, crickets, wood roaches, ladybugs, wasps and moths.
Then came the hummingbirds. And then one morning I woke up to find a herd of deer grazing in my yard, heads up, as if to say, “What the hell are you looking at?” Another brought two huge woodpeckers that made me realize the caricature of Woody Woodpecker isn’t much of an exaggeration. The autumn brought a forest blazing with color.
Each time I found myself gasping at how incredible it looked. Not in a book or out a car window. But immersed in it.
I can’t capture “breathtaking” on camera or in words, nor have I ever read or seen anything that did. I’d try but, while watching two squirrels diligently gathering acorns and stashing them for the winter was the most fascinating morning I’d spent in a long time, you’re probably sitting there yawning, saying, “Yeah, yeah. Squirrels, acorn-stashing . . . so what?”
So I won’t bore you with descriptions of majestic hawks or trees aflame. You’ve read it all before. Because you have to be there.
Trust me, it’s better than the book.

Share  Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 3:58 PM | Permalink

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