Are we all, deep down, yearning – even slightly – to wander in the wilds, to be completely in tune with Nature?
It’s a profound question, and one that’s not easily answered, especially in the modern world where such thoughts are usually dismissed as ‘airy-fairy’ ramblings. But I think it is an intriguing subject, and one I’m happy to give credence to.
So what do I mean? Literature such as The Man Whom The Trees Loved, The Centaur and The White People are good examples (and terrific reads) of the effect of Nature upon Man, and how – if one is open to it – it can liberate the soul, which has, in essence become shrunken through ‘society’ and the humdrum of life.
Note: This is not a view sympathetic with prancing pagans or modern day Tarot readers sitting in shops at the foot of Glastonbury Tor. Such people understand little of the raw silence of Nature – of its mysterious, toxic allure.
What I drive at, is best described through examples. Travelling on a train through London, looking out of the window at the houses, suddenly, very occasionally you might spot a patch of field, untouched by human hands. It is not cultivated fields, nor gardens, or forests dissected by roads, but instead wild and gloomy, with overgrown grass, and natural lanes leading into darkness. Do you ever, even for a second, stare at these strange, chaotic oasis and wish you were walking through it? Not GOING anywhere, per se, but merely exploring, walking, because it seems ‘right’.
The same feeling could be felt when in a national park, and you see lanes leading into deeper wood, away from the signposted areas – or perhaps not even lanes, but the half-sight of something unusual, a landmark of the unknown, like a weeping tree…a yawning ditch. A yearning to run off, abandoning life could happen, however brief. But of course we never follow through on these instincts, as the responsibility of living in a structured, civilised world weighs heavily on all of us, and we fear both ridicule…and the prospect of venturing into something alien to our logic and education.
There could be many explanations, of course, and science and religion are quick to offer such, but they wrap meaning up in their own individual dogmas, twisting the pure simplicity. Religion would relate this yearning as a hearkening back to early man, Adam’s time, when the world was essentially a garden, and man lived in harmony with flora and fauna. Science, on the other hand, in its own way encourages exploration into the world’s unknown recesses, but delights in the FINDING and NAMING, instead of drinking in the abnormality of atmosphere. The soul, in effect, takes a back seat. In essence, the mountain climber is focused on his goal, the star-gazer on finding a celestial body he can name after himself, or the jungle-traverser on being the first to find that elusive poisonous spider to call his own.
None can appreciate Nature, because they are too focused on results – on human ‘pride’ of discovery.
Children are closest to the simplicity of experience, when it comes to Nature. As a kid, I delighted in running through fields, and the child’s mind has an uncanny tendency to ‘zone in’ on the Natural world. They really get down on an ant’s level, to experience the insect’s journey over the twig with it, smiling all the while. They lie on the grass, dig for worms, chase frogs through streams. They IMMERSE themselves, and the reason it comes easier to them than adults? They, as yet, do not think of the future, living day to day, unburdened by the worries of working, family, money.
Crucially…they take their time in life.
So back to the original question. I have no answer myself, but am unashamed in believing that everyone, however radicalised by the ‘big city’, has a poppy seed inside them, which, under extreme and right circumstances, can briefly flower into a true empathy for the raw weirdness of ancient Nature.
My advice, should this happen, is simply to not be ‘in a hurry’ to dismiss it. It might never happen again.