What is it about nature that inspires me so?
Many of my fondest childhood memories are of camping trips on the Mogollon Rim in northern Arizona, of the favorite spots we know about, of the anticipation before those trips that felt better than waiting for Christmas to arrive. We counted down the days, my brothers and sister and I, calculated what to pack, fit and refit our clothing, boots and flashlights into our duffel bags. I savored the pleasure of putting my sweatshirt on the very top of the suitcase while it was 108 degrees or hotter at home, knowing that I would need it instantly upon getting out of our car in the higher elevation.
I love the blue spruce, the chipmunks, the blue jays, the booming afternoon thunderstorms, all so different from what seems like the ordinary environment of home down below. I still vividly recall our glorious trip one magic time on a houseboat on Lake Powell.
We camped with our pets, a line of cats and dogs on various trips throughout the years. The cats did surprisingly well, catching rodents with ease, and for the most part staying close by. We did suffer one loss, an ornery siamese named Sesame that couldn't be found on the last day as we packed . We hoped that her markings and size distinguished her as a house cat, and that she encountered people who gave her shelter at the bait and tackle shop and general store nearby our camp . I still laugh in the retelling of the time one cat got sprayed by a skunk and then slept in my tent, rendering our sleeping bags, clothing and campsite so stinky that we moved across the road. We watched as new campers came to that spot, and in vain moved the cumbersome garbage can to a spot further away. Afterwards, one man yelled back to his friend, "Is it any better now?," while we watched in smelly and private hilarity from a safe distance across the road.
I live in a modest house, in the center of a large city. I travel mostly by car. I live cooled by air-conditioning, safe from any storm, my meals provided by the luxury of going to the grocery store and picking out pretty much whatever I want within reason and cooking it. My walks are on the flat sidewalks of my neighborhood. The stars I see are greatly dimmed by the lights of the city. Summer storms don't easily penetrate the wall of heat rising up from the pavement all around my neighborhood. Even the climate where I live, it seems, is bent by the effects of modern city life.
Now I'm grown, and it is my turn to do the work of getting ready to camp and of settling back into our routine when we come home. I still like the thrill of seeing the beauty of the plants and critters when we go. What magic it is to see a quiet deer if I can catch a glimpse. I like the pleasure of grubbing around without the conveniences of my daily life, and the pride of being able to rough it. I like the musty smell of unpacking my duffel bag of clothes that reek of campfire smoke when I come home, tired and sunburned in spite of my old straw hat and my sunblock.
I like the beauty of the forest.
I like the private joy I feel inside myself when I think that the same God who created all these beautiful things created me too.