Some mornings in my dorm room, before I open my eyes, I try to convince myself that I’m home — that when I open my eyes I will see green trees and rolling mountains, hear chickadees singing and wild turkeys clucking and smell the sweetness of leaves aging.
But too often I am abruptly jolted from my fantasy by the slamming of a bathroom door or the wailing of Schenectady’s sirens, which remind me all too forcefully that I’m not in the Berkshires anymore.
At home, my journey to school would have taken me past waving fields of late-season hay, breathtaking mountain vistas and cows chomping on dewy crabgrass.
While I love Union’s campus, every walk to class reminds me that something is missing.
That something is most easily described as the communion with nature I enjoyed at home.
Most of my high-school days ended with a hike in the woods and nature preserves near my house, allowing me to lose the worries of the day as I shook off the pine needles of a low-hanging branch.
During these long walks I was completely alone.
After a day spent among teachers and friends, the woods offered a much-needed opportunity for my introverted self to recharge.
My hometown is smaller than the undergraduate population at Union.
But what my hometown lacks in stores and stoplights, it more than makes up for in scenery and solitude.
It’s possible to hike for miles without seeing another human being.
But why does this matter? Why should my tender reminisces have any meaning to you?
The life I described is certainly not for everyone. If I wanted a pumpkin spice latte, I’d have to drive for nearly an hour and leave the mountains. Going to the mall encompasses an entire day, rather than a bored afternoon.
But even if you enjoy the city life, even if you’ve never driven on a dirt road or watched a deer pick its way across the road in front of your headlights, I hope that somewhere, sometime, you’ve felt the power of nature.
Recently in my British Romanticism class, I read this passage of William Wordsworth’s 1805 edition of “The Prelude”:
Wordsworth, tracing the ways in which Nature has affected the formation of his mind, reminds the reader that it is impossible to be lost when one remembers the bond shared with nature.
Nature connects all things and grounds us, according to Wordsworth.
I tend to agree. Like Wordsworth, I grew up in the country and was indelibly marked by the experience.
I never feel more alive, more human, than when I’m in the woods, away from Facebook, away from Instagram, and away from all electronic contact.
Only at that moment can I see with clarity the path I’ve chosen and the truth of what really matters.
Only then can I return to society, to my work and to my obligations with a renewed vigor.
In a nation constantly on the move, constantly connected, constantly updating, it is indescribably freeing to cut the cords and to be alone with nature.
I’m not talking about going to the “Naked and Afraid” extremes, but I am talking about leaving your smartphone behind and exploring the natural world.
In a world so much focused on the artificial and on the virtual, take a moment to experience something real.
Something you can touch—something that you don’t have to force into your brain.
Explore what you can do outside of the range of A, A-, B+ and B- outside of someone else’s definition.
Do it for you. Watch your concerns about an upcoming test, a looming paper or about a threatening group project melt away in something greater than any humanly concern.