Maybe you’ve noticed I haven’t posted in a long time (maybe not). It isn’t that I haven’t been experiencing anything worth writing about – quite the contrary, in fact. It’s something else, something hard to write about. Firstly, I’m still trying to understand what I’m feeling, which makes it difficult to write. Secondly, I’m nervous about how my half-baked and complicated feelings will be received. But here I go anyway because I promised myself I’d always post the hard stuff, the raw stuff, and the complicated stuff – if not for myself, then for someone else who needs to read it and know they’re not alone.
I think what it boils down to is this: The Earth is amazing and beautiful and plentiful and forgiving and joyful and spectacular and perfect, and we don’t deserve it.
This planet and everything on it is not ours. We do not own any of it and yet we think we do. We draw invisible lines and give pieces of land to each powerful man so we don’t have to fight over which mountains and forests and rivers are whose, and still we do anyway. We are greedy. We level forests and dam rivers and mine mountains and poison lakes because its OURS and we CAN. Then when we’ve depleted the resources we thought were endless, we fight another man for their portion of the land, and when we win it through death and destruction and deception, we do the same thing – demolish, dam, deforest. We. Do. Not. Learn.
It’s amazing to me how we claim to be the smartest living creatures on the planet while we single-handedly destroy our own habitat. Do you see bears or moose or deer or whales or mice or lions or turtles ruining their habitats? No – because they are biologically wired to care about self-preservation. Apparently we are not.
But despite our obsession with destruction, beautiful places still exist in the world thanks to a few good, smart, awake humans. These are the places I crave. These are the places I seek. These are the places I travel to and experience. And in these beautiful places I come alive.
It’s amazing, really, how distinct the feeling is – being alive – especially after thinking you’ve been alive your entire life. Let me assure you – just because your heart is beating does not mean you are alive. Just because you wake up every morning does not mean you are living.
In these beautiful, alive places I am awakened from a deep, long coma. I am finally able to breathe in what feels like years, the world takes on vibrant colors, the smells intensify, and my heart beats wildly. Heck – even cold, overcooked pasta suddenly tastes like a five-star, four-course meal in these beautiful places.
At first it felt a lot like magic or some type of sorcery, but I’ve begun to realize it is merely life, real life. Not our fake, plastic, manufactured, sanitized “life” we’ve come to know as real. It’s the smell of wet moss in the depths of a rain forest and salty air blowing off an angry, grey ocean. It’s the pure yellow of the sunset against dark brown spruce bark. It’s air free of smoke from cars and factories and cigarettes. It’s a field of flowers untouched by humans, not picked to make flower crowns or to make bouquets that die in a day.
It’s wilderness – wild and untouched and beautiful.
And despite seeking these untouched places, I’ve yet to find one truly untouched place. We are everywhere and we have the technology to get anywhere we want.
I used to think I wanted to, just once in my life, go somewhere no person had ever been, to set foot on earth only ever touched by sun, rain, air, and animals. But now I know I’d never be able to forgive myself, to know I had taken away yet another untouched place from the world.
And so it is with a heavy heart I visit the beautiful places left on this planet because I come alive in them, but by being there at all I am contributing to their destruction.
Humans, by nature, are destructive beings. Everything we do destroys. On large scales we destroy forests and rivers and oceans and entire eco-systems in order to create junk to make our lives easier or more entertaining. But on a smaller scale, even by walking in the woods we are destroying the ground under our feet. Sure, one person walking up a mountain may not affect the ground very much, but 10? 100? 100,000? 1,000,000? We have a huge impact on the Earth and that is what we do when we create hiking trails. Even people who are there to appreciate and to come alive cannot help but contribute to the destruction of the woods they are hiking through.
But it is not these people with whom I have a problem. It’s the people who go to the beautiful places only to post their photos on Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat, to show their followers they are well-traveled and adventurous and whatever-the-hell-else. And that’s where I run into my issue. I, too, post on social media about all the beautiful place I go. Quite often, actually. But recently I made a choice not to post any pictures from a specific place that had a dramatic impact on me. It’s not a secret place. Millions of people have been there and will continue to travel there whether or not I post my pictures on social media. But in this place I came alive. Like, crying-in-happiness alive, and kiss-the-dirt-in-worship happiness, and yell-at-the-top-of-my-lungs-in-joy happiness. And when I had to leave that place and return to society, I cried. I wept, actually, as if I’d lost a dog, a family member, or a lover. I cried and cried and cried and realized I’d never get over that place. I looked through my photos, which made me smile and cry at the same time, and realized they were too important to me to share with just anyone, with everyone.
And so I withheld them. At first for myself and then for the place. The place deserves more than filtered photos posted on social media with cliche captions. The place deserves awe and worship and humility. The places deserves more than hashtags for likes and follows. The place deserves remembering and restoration and responsibility.
So, now more than ever, I’m torn. I want to share my experiences with everyone. I want to tell you about the way the leaves glowed as the afternoon light came streaking in through the forest, and I want to tell you about how clean the water tasted, and I want to tell you about how I yelled at the top of my lungs, WHAT?!?!?! WHO PUT THIS HERE?!” when I saw that glacier.
I want to encourage you to go out of your comfort zone to find the place that makes you come alive. I want you and everyone to find special places they care about so everyone starts giving a shit about nature. I want you to go outside, to get out of your house and car and office and all the boxes you’re confined to every day so you can smell clean air, and move your legs, and feel free and happy and alive, because I believe the answer to all of life’s unhappiness is outside.
But I want to protect all the special places, too. To be honest, I’m afraid. I’m afraid there aren’t enough of the good people who give a shit and know the value of nature to overpower the greedy people who only care about money. I’m even more afraid there are too many people who don’t care either way, who are content with their boxes and so they don’t see the value in the wild and special places, and therefore wouldn’t lift a finger to help us fight for them. I’m terrified there won’t be any special places left to take my children or grandchildren. But most of all I’m terrified it’s too late – too late to do anything about our human nature, too late to repair the damage we’ve done, too late to change anyone’s mind or habits, too late to make anyone care. I suppose that’s why I don’t want to share my special places – out of fear my actions will lead or contribute to their destruction.
I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know what to do or where to go from here. Do I stop searching for special, beautiful, wild places so as to not contribute to their destruction? Or do I go and not share it with the world? Or do I go, share it with the world, and hope someone hears my cry for change?
I don’t know. I’m still stumbling through this life, this passion, this new perspective. I only just discovered, it seems, what it feels like to be truly alive. It would be a shame to have to give it up, but I would if it meant protecting all the places that made me come alive in the first place.