Sometimes, after reading about a new housing development going up or hearing that another forest will be bulldozed, I get pissed off. More to the point though, I get sad. The loss of wilderness stings. Nature, after all, is the theme of our country’s literary canon, even if the stories were really about destroying nature to build a country. As Americans, we were all about exploring the wilderness, settling the land, and conquering the frontier. With the disappearance of these open spaces, can the demise of our country be far behind?
OK, maybe that’s a leap, but I lament the loss of true wilderness, places untouched by humans. Few places can stake a claim on that these days. Hasn’t every corner been explored, hiked, or snowmobiled by now? Maybe there’s a pocket in the Yukon or Siberia that’s virgin territory, but really, everyone’s been there before you.
Of course, just when I rail against development, how there are no places to “get lost” anymore, I take a walk at the local Audubon sanctuary, maybe 3 miles wide, and find I’ve somehow wandered off the path, hopelessly lost and looking not only for a sign but a water fountain. I mean, couldn’t they put a vending machine along the Appalachian Trail? It’s surprising, really, that that hasn’t happened. Maybe because we all revere nature in these sanctified versions. But if “nature” is a contained place, all mapped out, that we escape to only to find hoards of other people, is it still nature?
But, nature, is, after all, everywhere. I try to notice its smaller-scale marvels on my morning walk by noticing the leaves, or watching the shaggy snow flakes drop, or recognizing the nut hatch that alights on the small tree near the stairs. Nature nourishes, even in a tiny morsel the size of a ladybug or a red-capped mushroom.