Travelling through the states of Nevada, Oregon and California these past few months has definitely re-awakened my affinity with wildlife. In Nevada it was the arid scrub land and playa desert, bountiful numbers of soaring eagles and scurrying gecko’s that got me; in Oregon it was pine tree cushioned fresh water lakes, volcano rock linking pathways (McKenzie Pass), and the lush misty forests; in California it was the grand cliff faced beaches of Highway 1, the giant redwood groves and a plenitude of wild fauna (wild elk, deer, raccoons, woodpeckers, tree frogs and skunks to name but a few).
Even those of us who choose to spend our holiday breaks in places where we are closer to the wild side of the great outdoors (be it hiking in the Lake District or camping in Cornwall) often only retrieve enough nature spirit to last the journey back to the big smoke. This is something at least. There are still many who don’t even get a whiff of pine scent or ocean spray. One of my travelling companions, Alan, told me of a 12 year old English boy who, when told his hamburger beef patty came from a cow was so horrified he required counsellor to help him through his shock. This one example (though fairly extreme) shows just how some in our society are so far removed from the source of our over processed, glossy packaged food of our ‘super’ markets and from our natural environment.
Being the pro earth kinda gal that I am I was a tad surprised to discover how disconnected I was from the wild side of nature. Certain forest-scapes reminded me of movie scenes (think Lord of the Rings style); the full moon peeping over the forest lined mountain ridges at dusk reminded me of a giant stadium light; the panoramic view of a crystal blue lake looked a lot like a famous water colour painting I’d once seen. There was once a time when the reverse was true. Much of my childhood holidays were spent camping at a fresh water dam or at our Australia beach house so I was constantly identifying the influences of nature on city life. For example the fabric pattern of a designer dress amidst the pages of Vogue looked to me as if it was inspired by water lilies and new buildings took on the architecture of rolling waves. The latter is how I’d like to get back to viewing things. What it will take is spending more time in wilderness areas and places where we are trying to conserve; (monthly contributions to the Rainforest Foundation, though commendable, ain’t nearly close to what’s needed to reconnect with nature).
If our children are to help us divert climate change and restore the destruction we’ve inflicted on the planet due to industrialized and careless capitalism, they deserve (and need) the time to enjoy it. Just the other day we stopped on Highway 1 beside the grassy cliffs of the North Californian coast for a bathroom stop when I came across a praying mantis eating a freshly caught Monarch butterfly. Wow was it a treat. Getting up close and personal with it (rather than watching it on a Planet Earth box set) is breathtaking. When it has been too long between trips to the wilderness, it seems quite miraculous that nature is capable of surviving without any influence from man whatsoever, despite our every attempt to mould it around our own existence.
Nature in action is quite spectacular. Being amongst it is the only way we (and our children) can truly identify with what we’re conserving.