Connecting with Nature – who’s closest?

Farmers, hunters, rangers, country ‘hicks’…they all have something in common – they’re closer to real nature than the solar-loving, organic-eating, recycling rest of us.

My brother in law goes hunting whenever he can (for deer). He told us about one outing that influenced my non-hunter’s perspective.  He said he’d been out all afternoon and not seen any deer, only heard a couple at one point.  Evening came and he started heading out of the bush, but decided to stop, lay down on the ground and watch the stars for a while.  Now, Greg’s a man’s man, and to hear him talk about communing with nature like that was unexpected.

A few years ago, my husband and I went kayaking in Cable Bay, New Zealand. It was beautiful and magical, but the most stunning part of it was our guide, Nick (I think that’s his name). He knew the rythmns of the ocean, the island, the rocks, the birds, the fishing boats, the clouds…He knew what the island looked like 10 years ago, before the rich European lady bought it and spent the money to restore it to native bush. He knew what the winds meant and that the birds far out on the horizon, must be feeding on a school of fish, though normally the fish would have been out to the west this time of year…

Now that I’ve taken up running, I’m starting to get a glimpse into what that’s like, to notice the rythmns of a place and how wonderful it is. I’m NOTICING things. I run around our neighborhood, and when I see the cactus stand halfway down the drive, I remember what it looked like 4 months ago, with spectacular orange blossoms bursting out of the top of each spiky flower.  And right  now, I’m appreciating the green, green hills which will be brown by June and the sweet smell in the air at 6 AM from the jasmine and orange blossoms.  Give me another 6 months and I’ll begin to KNOW the changes and shifts and seasons.

But I live in what you’d call a suburb – standalone houses with lots of gardens, trees, yards, sidewalks. And I bet you that hunters and farmers are even more aware of nature than I am.   And I bet it’s harder for city folk to get close to it. You’d have to make a real effort to get out there.

So I see farmers and hunters and fisherman as people close to the land who aren’t exploiting it, but living and working with it and shaping it.  Maybe even caretaking it.  They should be at the heart of the environmental movement and not treated as the enemy, as they so often are. Many have a deep love for it that is personal and goes far beyond any political or theoretical commitment.