Society is all about productivity; how can we, as humans, make the most of our time? How can we use the resources around us to our benefit? How can we get ahead? People rush through life, always on the go, rarely taking the time to notice their surroundings. Our collectively incessant push for progress serves only to blind us to the beauty of nature.
Sure, I too sometimes become swept up in the hustle and bustle of life as a college student, but I like to think that I am different. I make sure to pause, take a step back, and just take in nature every now and again. Sometimes these moments are brief—staring in silent awe as I pass a pile of perfectly uniform fallen leaves, or stopping between classes to admire the way the squirrels seem so at home nestled amongst that oak’s branches—but the most integral step towards appreciating is noticing. Nature doesn’t have a busy schedule. It doesn’t make excuses. It doesn’t tell you that now’s not a good time. If we need an escape, nature is always there and ready to be noticed. We are the one who must make time for nature.
A furry friend on Dickinson College’s campus.
Growing up, I was always taught that nature was something to marvel at, something to show love and respect to. Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around my relationship with my natural surroundings. In the early years of my life, my family lived on two acres land in eastern Pennsylvania. Our property was bordered mainly by thick forests with the exception of one edge, which ran alongside a stretch of the north branch of Neshaminy Creek. The creek (which extends from the nearby Lake Galena) and and its banks served as home to many varieties of small fish, herons, snakes, and insects, all of which I was determined to know and learn more about. Even today, I cherish the countless hours that I spent in and around that creek.
Different views of Lake Galena.
Because the property was near a nature sanctuary, all of the geese in the area had small metal bands around their left legs. These bands, which I always thought resembled small bracelets, each had a unique number, which researchers used to track the migration patterns and distribution of the birds’ populations. Every day, I would take old bread and crackers down to the same spot along the creek, and I would feed the geese.
This daily ritual always attracted a handful of interested visitors, but two geese in particular quickly became regulars. I affectionately referred to this pair as Jenny and George, and the three of us would meet every day. Over time, the pair grew less hesitant and less afraid of humans. Eventually they grew so accustomed to me and to this routine that they would let me approach them, and they would take the bread directly out of my hand.
When I was six or seven years old, my family moved. We left behind the natural world that I had come to know in favor of a more suburban residence. Although I adjusted to my new surroundings, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing. Our backyard was little more than a 10×10 ft patch of grass. Surrounded by a tall wooden fence, the enclosed space felt cramped and barren compared to the expansive forests I had known before.
Luckily, I became friends with one of my classmates, who I quickly learned shared my love of all things natural. The first time I visited her house, I was in awe. She and her family lived on five acres of land, similarly surrounded by forests and streams as my old house had been. They also had barns, which were always alive with the calls of goats, chickens, horses, and other assorted farm animals.
A few of the farm’s many residents.
My friend and I would spend hours out in the barn observing how the goats interacted with one another, or climbing trees and trekking through the woods while we chatted and became even closer friends. It was these hours that fulfilled my need to be immersed in nature. Visits to her house became my new escape.
Until more people allow themselves to put their busy lives on hold once in a while and truly notice their surroundings, the beauty and complexity of nature will continue to go largely unnoticed. Society, as a whole, must realize that it is okay to slow progress, especially for so worthy a cause as the natural world. Just as an appreciation and gratitude toward nature have been nurtured in me, I hope to use this blog as a means to pass these traits along to you.