I'm a writer from New Jersey, now living in Chicago. Journalist/production manager for a news site, aspiring to become an author of fantasy novels. In the meantime, I'm blogging.

I like nature, black metal, the occult, cats, and good wine.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Werifesteria: Not all those who wander are lost

ell, this weekend I’m beginning my diet. It’s part of a greater plan to get myself healthy - in the spiritual, physical, and mental sense. Switching to lots of water each day, cooked meals like fish and lean chicken, and less sugary, carbonated drinks. I mean, I really have no excuse not to do it. There’s a produce store right down the street from where I live now, a health food store not far from it, and basically access to all of the types of food that I might want.

But that’s just one part of the physical improvement. I’ve been hiking here or there, but apart from a 16-mile hike I did several weeks ago that left me exhausted, I haven’t really made this activity a regular thing, because I often am so tired on the weekend, and I only get those two days to relax and have free time. But I think I need to prioritize hiking - I enjoy it, anyway. I’m not cut out for city life, but things like working and needing to live in a place that’s affordable currently keep me here; I may not like living in the heart of a busy city, but I also wouldn’t like being broke and not having a comfortable place to hang my head - I mean, my hat.  (I don’t actually wear a hat.)

That being said, I have an internal need to connect with nature as much and as often as possible. Many years ago, when the naïveté of youth was still strong in me, I just assumed that everyone loved the woods; the trees; the wildlife; the peace and tranquility of the earth. When I moved from small towns in Jersey and Pennsylvania, and came to Chicago, I saw for the first time that that was not the case. It shouldn’t have surprised me - after all, someone’s got to populate all these metropolises.

You can’t tear down what Mother Earth built and expect that people are going to be okay.

And yet, I can’t help but notice that city folks seem spiritually disturbed. This analysis won’t matter to people who don’t believe in the spiritual, but notice how they rush from place to place, how they have agitated and high-strung personalities, how they lose patience over the simplest or silliest thing. I feel that these are all signs of a deeper problem caused by removal of the human being from the environment. You can’t tear down what Mother Earth built, replacing it with a giant steel trap of noise and pollution, and expect that people are going to be okay. This is not, of course, a condemnation of city people, who say that they love living in their cities and have no desire to move. I believe them! And more power to them, I guess. But I still think they would be healthier if they lived away from what Man built, and nearer to what Nature gave us.

Anyway. This isn’t meant to be a study of metropolitan communities vs. bucolic ones. At the end of the day, I make no judgments about others, and can only speak for myself and my own needs. I don’t like being surrounded by skyscrapers. I don’t like having to walk past traffic filled with beeping cars and roaring engines; it stresses me out. I don’t like having to weave my way in and out of a hurried crowd of the 20-50 people who clutter a sidewalk at any given moment. And as for exercise, I don’t enjoy walking down a city avenue, much for the reasons I just mentioned.

There was no noise pollution, only rich, verdant mountains in the distance.

I fondly think about the days when I lived in West Milford, New Jersey. There were many things I hated about that town, it’s true: the drug addicts, the drug dealers, the ignorant assholes who would yell things at you out of passing cars, the town drunks that roamed around asking for $. And yet, I would do this 3-mile walk, both ways, each day of the week. I was really poor at that time, and had no Internet, so I would walk to the library on the other side of town to get my fix and keep in touch with everyone. Mind you, this was still back when MySpace was the main thing. But I remember that, apart from the occasional car featuring one of those aforementioned assholes, the walk was a pleasant one. I’d walk alongside the woods, often seeing deer, bears, and birds of all sorts. The road was almost always car-free, and things were so quiet that you could hear insects in the far distance. There was no noise pollution, only rich, verdant mountains in the distance, and Greenwood Lake, and interesting supposedly “haunted” places like Clinton Road.

For many reasons, I can’t live that life right now. Again, affordability is the main one. So I have to make do. I count myself lucky that I at least have somewhere that I can go and be surrounded solely by things that are natural. Where I don’t have to see cars or buildings or people (okay, maybe the occasional bike-rider or jogger). Granted, it’s a two hour trip out there by public transit, so I really need to make a full day of it when I go. But it’s one of those things that I need in my life, and I have to increase my exposure to it.

A great many people no longer appreciate the sound of rain falling on ancient cedar trees.
I’ve spoken before about people not appreciating the little things in their life, that a lot of people have to live without. Having a bed to sleep in, being able to actually eat meals of your choice and not starve or subsist on fast food, being able to buy things like clothes and books and music. 

But a great many people no longer appreciate the sound of rain falling on ancient cedar trees; the communicative calls of birds, ricocheting off the treetops; the proud march of a stag in the wilderness, off to find food. Or the simple touch of an old tree - something that has survived for generations; which has likely withstood the rise and fall of civilizations; which has grown to dominate the landscape, even as it faces threats like light pollution, deforestation, and the noxious things that industrialization has wrought.

A lot of people talk about going green these days. I’m not the only one who talks about eating right. There are others who feel they’re doing even better than I, because they’re turning vegan, going out of their way to find and eat non-GMO foods, investing in sustainable farming and rooftop gardening, so on and so forth. But to me, it’s not enough to care about something from a distance. It’s nice to be an armchair environmentalist and preach about defending nature from the comfort (their word, not mine) of your Brooklyn or Chicago apartment. It’s another thing entirely to make nature a part of your life - that’s true environmentalism, and you don’t have to check boxes off on some list of activism initiatives to do it. Love and worship nature, and the rest will follow accordingly. Try not to think academically about it, but rather, get your hands dirty and literally get in touch with nature - rediscover what you, the human being clinging to brick and mortar - have lost and understand that there is a great, collective wisdom in the woods.

Someday, we might end up burning everything down. Climate change, industrial development, real estate - these things will take away the final vestiges of true wilderness. Whether a hundred years from now or a thousand, unless we drastically change the way we live and the way we view the planet, it’s going to happen. And when that time comes, the wisdom and the spiritual power of Nature will be lost to us. So appreciate what you have, and make a few changes in your life.

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