Monday, February 24, 2014

Craving the Outdoors

My daughter and I watched Into The Wild together when she was around 12 years old.  The experience stuck with me for a few reasons - because she actually wanted to watch an entire movie with me (and other adults), because she allowed herself to be taken in by the quiet beauty of the film and became choked up from emotion, and because I think that may have been the beginning of the realization that nature is Stella's best therapist.  And mine too.  We both connected to Chris McCandless' decision to escape the trappings of modern, materialistic society and head deep into the wilderness.  I am forever grateful that both my daughter and I were able to grow up in a rural area, where we could safely disappear for hours and hours on Summer days and were only limited by our imaginations.

When I made the decision to move back to "the city" - in quotes because it's just a large town with a population of 75,000 with Stella in 2004, I knew it meant losing that connection.  So I still got both of us out into the country as often as possible.  I mean...we still lived basically in a rural area; Fayetteville is hardly "the city."  Escaping to the woods just took slightly more effort.  Proximity to wilderness is one of the biggest reasons I've never moved to a bigger city.  I also think that Stella's decision to attend college in a small town, surrounded by huge mountains and ancient canyons, was informed in many ways by her experiences in nature.  It heals us, grounds us, and reminds us that we are tiny drops in an ocean of human (and non-human) experience. 

The West Fork of the White River.  Summer 2013
One time an international student asked me what my religion was and all I could think to answer was "Nature."
My beloved Ozarks, taken two autumns ago.

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