Three summers ago I spent a week in the Adirondacks. I was there to read and that’s what I did. I sat on a deck overlooking a small lake and read 3 books. One of those was Self, Interaction, and Natural Environment by a mentor of mine, Andrew Weigert. The basic argument, as I understand it, is that we are increasingly alienated from our natural environment to the degree that we are largely incapable of understanding the ways that it is changing. I’ve reflected on that notion a lot over the last few years. I’m certainly alienated from the ‘nature’ that surrounds me, it bothers me, and I’ve tried to do some things about it. They haven’t really stuck.
Two years ago I decided to become a birder. I had read Luke Dempsey’s A Supremely Bad Idea, a book about his adventures in birding. Above all, it seemed so relaxing to spend time in the woods appreciating birds. Last summer I read Carl Safina’s The View from Lazy Point: A Natural Year in an Unnatural World and found his reflections on the migratory patterns of birds to be the most fascinating. Not only are the birds colorful and peaceful, but their changing behaviors can tell us something about the complexities of the world we live in. I really like that idea. However, while I do like birds, I continue to know very little about them and I am quite frankly overwhelmed by their variation. Being a ‘birder’ means knowing what you are looking at, and I just don’t foresee developing that knowledge.
So, now I have a new plan, and so far it’s working. I’ve started to play Disc Golf, and one of the things that I’ve really enjoyed about it is that it has encouraged me to spend time in 4 nearby parks that I’ve spent very little time in previously. I tend to be inside playing video games, watching TV, or spraying pesticides on insects (yes, the irony is intended). I have never spent as much time in the woods as I have over the last month or so. See, I’m not very good so I spend an awful lot of time walking through trees and brush looking for wayward discs. Just a few days ago I nearly stepped on a turtle, and then immediately saw a frog of some sort. Maybe I’ll figure out what sort of frog, or maybe I won’t, but either way I can’t help but feel that getting outside, a bit, is good for me. And not just for the personal benefits of fresh air or the exercise, but also because it does seem that my mostly indoor life has left me alienated from the natural environment and that the consequences of such alienation, when considered as a wide-spread symptom of our current social order which sometimes assumes nature is either to be exploited or controlled, may not be pleasant.