nature: the greatest escape
*Chimney Pond, Baxter State Park, Maine
*Baxter Peak, Mt. Katahdin, Baxter State Park, Maine
The hike along the trail has your feet dancing around twisted roots grown up from beneath the dirt. Large stacked boulders detail the path and require your attention to remain present. The sign states 3.3 miles until Chimney Pond, a large pool of blue crystal water that makes you feel like you’ve struck natures gold rather than stumbled upon a simple pond. From there, you can choose one of the five possible routes up the mountain. Mt. Katahdin, Maine’s highest peak, attracts thousands of visitors each year to its summit. This mountain represents either the beginning or ending point of the famous 2,184 mile Appalachian Trail. Standing 5,269 feet high and part of the Appalachian Mountains, Katahdin means ‘The Greatest Mountain’. Named by the Penobscot Indians who have lived along the Penobscot River for over 10,000 years, the mountains, rivers, forests, lakes and endless expanse of Maine’s nature is wild and free.
Below a stretch of crisp white clouds in perfect puffy chaos, there lies a thick layer of simplicity. Amongst the rushing water and animal tracks, the forest begins to whistle. Nature ditches the cacophony of honking and sirens and instead, offers a symphony of frogs croaking and birds practicing their love songs. The smells begin to shift as you meander through the towering trees and brush your fingers across the spring green moss that blankets the rocks. This is where the human spirit lives. This is where the tangible wild and human intuition combine to birth the creative self. Too often the days wander away and our trials or successes envelope us. We forget. We forget that the human collective ethos needs the natural world raw and intact. An interview with conservation activist Sandy Neily reminds us, “We were born into the planet and walk on it everyday. When humans are separate from the natural world, they have more physiological stress. It’s crucial for us to recognize the importance of that connection. And that’s why we need to restore wild rivers, and wild places, because there really aren’t that many more left.” The natural world holds the link to not only our physical self, but to the artist and spirit in each of us.
Often times there is the notion that nature is meant to be viewed from a safe distance. There are bugs, rain, steep hills, prickly plants and cold winds, and people feel like they are not strong enough to endure it. And yet, the visceral experience is elemental to our happiness. Naturalist Jean Howekwater, who works for Baxter State Park, speaks to the link between people and our natural world, “Kids need to feel the paper bark growing on the trees. There is a kind of ‘look don’t touch’ mentality in the preservation environmental community, and we are struggling with the downfalls of that. If it’s a look don’t touch attitude, then it’s the same as the digital experience that children already have and it just blends into the background. If somebody hasn’t actually been to a natural place that truly inspires them, will they feel a desire to act towards preserving it?” It is easy to agree that picture graphics on the computer can be gorgeous and powerful. But ultimately, will people want to be an active part of conservation if all they know about nature is a photograph? Bridging the gap between the digital age and personal participation will determine the fate of our planet.
Nature exists in constant transformation. Although preservation is essential to the health of our natural world, the outdoors are equally meant to be explored. Often times, the look don’t touch mentality separates people even further. We may think we have to travel far and wide to find a piece of nature that inspires a connection or triggers a desire to push human limits in order to see further. But lets face it, it’s not always so easy getting to that idolized beach or forest on the other side of the world. This week, I invite you to notice the beauty right outside your door. The first step, and essentially the most important, is to connect with the resources around you and develop a base wherever you may be. It’s great to travel and experience a lot of places, but it’s your immediate surroundings that have the biggest impact on your day to day life. We act on the information that we get from our senses, empirically and through physical activities. Today, listen to that undeniable hunger to rediscover your spirit and see the world around you with brighter colors.
*Horserace Brook, small tributary of the Penobscot River, Maine
*Fragrant Water Lily Nymphaea Odorata, Compass Pond, Maine