What's nice about the occasional camping trip or excursion into the deep outdoors isn't just that it grants us the soothing comfort of "mother" nature—an epithet which is as much propaganda as it is truth. Mothers, the nurturing life-givers, the founts from which our spirits erupt skyward to condense into our transcendent selves. A gentle and loving condition bestowed upon that world from which our ancestors emerged. But just as much as it can be nurturing, nature can also be cruel. And the balance it strikes can be no more judged than the artistic value of a sunrise or waterfall. Nature is what it is exactly so that it can be as it is. There is no greater intent for us to grasp at to lobby claims of favoritism. "Mother" nature just as easily feeds a warbling chick in the early dawn as it would tear it apart by the talons of a dusk cloaked raptor. And life bestowed is as miraculous as death is indifferent.

We do not rejoice in nature because it is forgiving and kind. We do because it releases us from the hazy confinements of the world which we have moved ourselves into. Because nature's cruelties are without malice and our survival of them breeds respect rather than enmity. A mountain climber does not hate the mountain that caused her so much pain. She reveres it, as much for its own awesome nature as for the transformed spirits of those who can reach its summit. Our communion with nature is not in seeking the shelter and warmth of a mother. It is to embrace the nostalgia of our trials as children. At a time when our minds were closer to our natural selves. And especially of the period when every new discovery revealed in some way the emerging reality that we could mold the world around us, and shape the consequences ahead of us. When a human being discovers that she can rely on her own self.

This is what nature offers to us, with its simplicity of purpose and unwavering indifference. We learn to turn inward towards the instincts that nature itself carved, alongside the canyons that whip across the land. And with them, we discover our own agency. For among the myriad marvels of nature, the greatest of them was to teach a thing to believe in itself, whether true or false, and from such miracles, we develop a self to rely upon. We are forced to reseek that primitive sense of discovery that comes from realizing what we can achieve when nothing else matters. That is the truest joy of visiting the outdoors, spending a night beneath the billions of shards of starlight, with the river's polyphonous monologue lulling us to sleep. It is in this world that we remember who we are, this world where we must be exactly what we are so that we can be exactly as we are.

Mike LinComment