This time we live in is quite magical. Technology is exploding exponentially, it seems sometimes like it is every day. Smaller and smaller gadgets can do more and bigger things that are useful in so many ways. Communicating with others anywhere on the planet has never been easier or faster. People can be entertained at the click of a small button, on the land, sea or in the air. I sometimes lament the tradeoff.
If I am on my I-pad playing a game or reading a book, then it is pretty unlikely that I am in the woods taking a walk. If my grandson is on the couch plugged in to his latest X-box game, there is no way that he can experience the connection with the woodchuck standing in the hayfield, taking in the world around him. If my neighbor has her eyes cast down to her smart phone, reading the latest text about a special sale on handbags at the local big box store, it is quite likely she did not notice the mating call of the cardinal in her back yard.
It was well said by Senegalese poet and naturalist Baba Dioum: “In the end, we will protect only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” We seem to be at a point in human evolution where there is a danger of the younger generations in particular of losing that understanding of what it means to be connected to nature. The strong magnetism of the digital world is like a Pied Piper for many, and it may be that it comes with a cost and willingness to protect the natural world when it comes time for these youngsters to lead.
I was blessed with time in nature as a boy growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, partly because of the time I grew up in, and partly because I grew up on a farm. I also had the benefit of older brothers who found joy and comfort from being in the woods and around the ponds and streams, and I was naturally drawn to where they would go. It never hurt that there were squirrels and bunnies to watch, forts to build, creeks to dam up and create our own waterfront paradise.
As I walk my journey in my seventh decade, I realize just how fortunate I am to have had the groundwork of time in nature when I was young. I draw immense value yet from taking a stroll through the tulip trees, finding a few moments to sit on a log and drink in the sounds of the life around me. I am able to plug in to an energy that fills me with peace, connection, introspection. Whether I gift myself this time as alone space, or I share it with a friend, the result is always one of plugging into something bigger than me, yet filling me with a feeling of being a part of, rather than apart from, something grand.