Our Connection with the Natural World

When the opportunity presents itself to venture out into the natural world for a camping trip, performing my traditional morning rituals in the woods is like meeting with old friends in a forest. The simple pleasures of preparing the first meal of the day beside the trees and in the cool early morning air are as exquisitely delightful as they are simple.

While most of the objects and interests are those common to the breakfast experience at home, they induce an even greater degree of pleasure, and they are enhanced beyond that everyday experience by their location outdoors in one of Emerson’s “plantations of God.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that “Hospitality consists in a little fire, a little food, but enough, and an immense quiet.” This perhaps best explains the feeling of hospitality one finds in the forests and mountains of remote areas. Connecting to our “innate human spirit” requires this sort of hospitality, and the immense quiet, only truly available away from civilization, is a profound silence that allows us to connect to it.

Camping outdoors in the mountains or in remote forest areas for days at a time, from daybreak to nightfall, presents a number of challenges to many of the daily rituals of modern life.  If you stay long enough you actually begin to “dwell” in these “plantations” and a richer appreciation of Emerson’s words begins to unfold.

Year-round habitation among the woodland areas would clearly increase the difficulty of everyday life well beyond those faced on a shorter stay in moderate seasonal weather.  Storms, accompanied sometimes with torrential rain, bitter cold temperatures and wind-driven snow of the winter season, would challenge even the hardiest souls.

Even Henry David Thoreau built himself an actual cabin in the woods, and for two years endured the many seasonal changes that take place in the course of a year. According to his written record of his experience in “Walden,” he faced some fairly difficult days attempting to “sustain a reasonable degree of comfort and balance” as someone “living” in the woods.

On one particular camping trip some years ago, in spite of not having slept all night, having decided to travel into the state forest right after an overnight shift at work, upon arrival, I gladly started in to construct our campsite, including setting up a tent, a dining canopy, and the camp kitchen. Anticipating spending the entirety of a very long weekend in the woods, I seemed to have more energy than one might reasonably possess not having slept a wink in the previous twenty-four hours.

Reflecting on my own struggles as I built an adequate shelter for the next few days in the early morning hours at that time, I considered, as I often do, what it might have been like for our ancient ancestors, having to find shelter and protection in order to survive during those epochs when no formidable “man-made” structures were available, (or even invented) and they clearly were able somehow to manage well enough using natural structures such as caves, dense arrangements of trees or other cover, fashioned by utilizing whatever surrounding natural resources they could find.

The progress humanity has made since then has increased exponentially from those early survival levels, and although our current levels of technology have improved our conditions overall, there are still places on Earth where groups of people in particular cultures continue to inhabit areas which do not rely on modern artificial structures for protection.  Observing such cultures, which exist in such conditions as matter-of-factly as we live in our own current neighborhood communities of houses and apartments, we can see how humans were able to devise methods for adapting to those ancient environments.

Since the very first indications of subjective awareness in primitive human evolution appeared, it is apparent that we eventually began to view the world, not simply as a place to survive and endure, but one that was also influenced by forces beyond our understanding, and beyond the physical reality that informed our everyday experience of the world.

At first, many of these forces were given mythical attributes as explanations for experiences and phenomena that we could not understand. In order to obtain our current level of sophistication and intellectual grasp of the workings of the physical universe required many thousands of years to reach. Countless erroneous versions of what made the world function as it does appeared over that time, and were only abandoned after great upheaval and the relentless intellectual progress that has characterized our human history.

Through it all, the notion of an existence, “beyond experience,” and the belief in some sort of supernatural source for all life and existence, not constrained by physical laws, has persisted and flourished to this day.

Some may wish to attribute these notions to some failure to discern the actual materialistic explanation which simply eludes us presently, but for me, after all is said and done, the existence of what I often refer to as the “human spirit,” a vitally important and essential non-physical aspect of our human nature, is simply one component of a much broader and all-encompassing aspect of our existence—the subjective experience of human consciousness.

In just a few weeks, I will be embarking on the first sojourn of the season into the beautiful southern wilderness area along the East Coast to a state forest in rural Maryland, on the banks of the Pocomoke River.  The campground areas within the confines of the almost 18,000 acres is a fairly small portion of that landscape, which is under the protection of the Department of Natural Resources, and which provides access to a spectacular natural environment that has been preserved and maintained as a “wilderness area,” that has not been significantly modified by human activity.

As always, I will be reporting on my adventures and misadventures, as the case may be, and hopefully be providing some additional video content for my visitors and subscribers to enjoy.

2 thoughts on “Our Connection with the Natural World

    1. It will, no doubt, be a most welcome respite from the usual routines of a typical weekly schedule, and even though the goal is primarily to relax and take in the beauty and wonder of the wilderness generally, I have found that once I settle in to the natural landscape, I usually become even more motivated to write and conjure ways of expressing the fabulousness of the experience. Time for and advantageous conditions for reading are built in to the camp rules wherever we go, and almost without fail, we generally are able to locate a library somewhere in the vicinity, where I can check my emails or look up a subject that comes up in my reading when the opportunity comes up.

      I looked up “camping in South East England” and found that there are opportunities available “…on the banks of the River Thames, a mile from East Tilbury village, 40 minutes drive to Southend-on-Sea, next to a nature park and on the Thames Estuary Path, about an hour’s journey from London.”

      It sounds lovely, but, of course, it might be a bit off-the-path depending on how far it might be from you.

      I’m looking forward to sharing on my return…John H.

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