Enough Nature for Me

I realized a long time ago that I really don’t like nature that much.  I mean, it’s fine (what would we do without nature?).  But I don’t get that frenzied, messianic look in my eye when people bring up nature or when they say they’ve been doing something I consider abhorrent, like wandering around in the woods for two weeks.  My God, I think.  Did you do that voluntarily?

I feel similar guilt pangs about not liking dogs that much and about drawing a complete blank when people refer to themselves as “spiritual.”  I’ve never quite understood, exactly, what spiritual means, even though it’s been explained to me, quite earnestly, half a dozen times.  And dogs — well, I do get them, but I can take them or leave them, which is not what you would call a popular emotion in certain crowds.

Anyway, more than one person suggested that, on this sabbatical, if my husband and I really wanted to get a lot of work done, we should go to the country for a year.  The country for a year!  Are they kidding?  The country for a weekend is just great — peaceful, bucolic, restful, whatever.  After that, it seriously begins to get on my nerves and I need to be airlifted to an urban center as quickly as possible so I can be revived by the sounds of tires squealing and people yelling at one another.  Oh, yes, civilization!

What I’ve realized over the past few weeks is that a place like Central Park is just about as much nature as I need or want.  You know, a few trees and bushes, some grass and rocks.  But, in the distance, you can always catch a comforting glimpse of some buildings and, equally important, you’re never out of cellphone range.

Along with those advantages, you also get to watch other people, a pastime I’ll take any day over watching a bunch of boring, uncommunicative, possibly dangerous animals in the wild.  And what an array of people!  Last week, we saw a solo tuba player sitting on a bench, practicing for the marching band.  A young couple asked my husband to take their photo, so we watched them intertwine their arms around each other as they posed.  They were impossibly beautiful together, like an elegant sculpture, and I wondered what would happen to them in another five years. Then, walking past a park bench, we heard two guys talking about relationships.  “You have to compromise in a relationship,” one told the other.  “Dude, I really hate that.”

We walked, we watched, we listened, we had a fine time.  Then, after about an hour, when we were hungry, there were zillions of restaurants around, just begging to be tried.  I know this isn’t everybody’s idea of communing with nature, but for me, it does the trick.

(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)

Read more about my idea of hell

8 comments… add one
  • I love it.  I do admit to being a nature freak.   Dirt was ground in me from day one, so I can’t help it.  But people watching in Central Park is a great day of nature, too.  Some of the wildest creatures in the world are human!

  • Cindy A Link

    I’m with you, Ruth. Days in the woods are fine but at night I want to be in a nice comfy bed with the low hum of central air.

  • Ah, Ruth!  You need to come to Outer Cape Cod!  I used to consider myself a city girl.  I lived most of my life right outside Paris, grew up in DC, and was born in Manhattan.  We came here to home care my elderly parents.  We planned to leave after they passed away.  Well, it has been three years now.  I still miss culture, but a quick excursion to Boston cures that fast.  The air is clean.  The ocean roars in the distance on stormy days.  Most of the time, the sky is bright blue.  I never tire of watching the sandpipers scurry across the beach.    No cityscape can compare with the beauty of Cape Cod.  You should check it out on your way back to Texas!

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    Julie — When it comes down to it, human nature intrigues me more than anything else in the natural or unnatural world.  Cindy — Don’t forget the critical importance of indoor plumbing.  Alexandra — Cape Cod is lovely, I agree.  I think I’m just hopeless by your standards; or maybe it’s hard to think with the traffic roaring in the background.

  • Loved this! It made me miss taking sidewalk hikes through Chicago when we lived in Wrigleyville. I will say that civilization is great when people are civilized; and human nature is fun to watch when it’s music on a park bench and beautiful people in love.  I guess you just have to take your urban nature hikes in the right neighborhood.  🙂

  • I love cities — well, cities like New York and San Francisce and even Washington. But I feel sorry for most of the inhabitants of Los Angeles. And there are some others, some in Texas, I would not like to spend time in. I love dogs and the great outdoors. But I am with you entirely about being “spiritual”. I think people who are religious believe in some specific myth; one with a story line. Spiritual is religious without the story line, with a bit of minor superstition mixed in. I have a sister who manages to believe ALL the myths (even if they are logically incompatable) plus astrology, crystal healing, esp, ghosts, and some others I forget. Amazing.

  • Cindy A Link

    I always thought spiritual meant religious but not a total nutcase about it. Like Deepak Choprah instead of Tammy Faye Baker. 🙂

  • Steve Link

    As your resident “religious” correspondent, let me add that I know many religious folks who I find not remotely spiritual, and spiritual folks not remotely religious. I’ve experienced the spiritual in prayer and meditation, but I’ve also experienced it standing on the South Rim of the Chisos at sunrise and holding my daughter’s on the observation deck of the World Trade Center as it swayed in the NYC breeze. For me, being spirtual is experiencing an awareness of AND connection to something more–more powerful, more indescribable, more exciting, more present, more permanent–than myself. Awareness without feeling the connection is merely awe.

Leave a Comment