Lately I’ve got it in me to hike more of the local trails. Ones I’ve never hiked before or have already done only a few times. It started a couple of weeks ago when my stepmom told me our town had a forest. I’ve been hiking in general for a while and have done a few of the local hikes but our town is a small one and on the outskirts of Boston. We barely have a commons let alone an entire wooded area enough for a forest! But rest assured it’s here. 47 acres or so the sign informed me. It is also deer tick season, FYI.
So on one of my days off I set out for the forest. The trail was about a mile long and the walk to the woods I believe was slightly longer than the actual hike itself. But all in all it wasn’t a bad hike. It abuts some swampland and off in the distance I could here the machinery of the local aggregate industries hammering away. It was surprisingly hilly for its short distance and halfway through there was an old derelict car from the 50’s or 60’s. Rusted out and adorned with broken bottles and what I think were old roofing tiles.
Not the prettiest hike I’ve done but it was nice to get out into nature and enjoy the first few warm days of spring. Since I’ve done a few more hikes all within a few miles of where I live. But just being able to get out and enjoy the warmth of the sun, to hear the birds calling and see the forest come to life after what always seems to feel like too long a winter is good for the spirit. It reminds me of how connected we are to our environment. Which got me to thinking how our connection to nature has been a particularly pointed perspective. Especially with climate change and how obsessed we are with our technologies.
I commute into work now, Cambridge MA. And since the Corona virus the commute has been a lot less crowded. But before we had to stay home the trains were packed. hundreds of people all sitting next to one another, shoulder to shoulder. But if you were to close your eyes it would seem as though you were completely alone. Not a sound. Only the busy typing on touch screens and so many headphones that if they had cords, they would probably wrap around the length of the train a few times.
I’m not saying this to take some sort of moral stance against technology. I enjoy it. I’m typing outside on my porch right now listening to music while in the distance I can see and hear the sounds of waves scrubbing the beach. But it seems to me as though our priorities have been skewed.
The outdoors used to be a place that we would go to wake up into our senses. Be in the body and feel the wind on our face. Smell the ocean and trees in bloom and feel the sun on our skin. And now, for some, it’s a place to store our garbage and impromptu garage. Collectively we’ve become so dissociated from our surroundings by shutting ourselves in and cutting off from the rest the world that it feels like if you didn’t see it on social media, or didn’t watch it on Netflix, it didn’t really happen. So much so that we’ve became a culture raised on anything we can binge on. From fast-food and television.
And again, I’m not trying to take a moral stance against takeout and television. Both have there place. But when we use tech to completely disconnect and binge on television or takeout, or anything bingeable, here is where the problem lies and the dissociation starts.
Now I’m not suggesting that we reinvent the wheel or anything. By going completely apeshit and swinging in the other direction by throwing out or T.V.’s and become urban homesteading fascists. Instead why not search for local green spaces to explore. Then some Sunday instead of tuning into Netflix and stuffing yourself full of things you’ll probably feel bad about later, and possibly while you’re doing it, you could reconnect with yourself. And appreciate the natural world that has been going largely unnoticed as of late.
So again, I’m not saying tech, takeout or television are bad things. They have there place and I know I for one am grateful for them. But they aren’t the pinnacle of our cultural achievements. They’re just things that make life a little easier. If we make some small changes, like getting out and exploring some local hikes, we’ll probably come to appreciate them a little more. And this will lead to having a greater sense of fulfillment. Being a part of the world we are living in instead of cutting off from it.
Image credits: Adam Sergott, a photo I took atop Mt. Mooseilauke NC.