Years ago Vogue Magazine asked this question, “Why do we need nature?” and solicited essays for one winner to be published. At the time it seemed like a ridiculous question with an obvious answer – until I tried to answer it. I tried to answer it through thinking about it. I did not win of course.
Well, I just experienced the answer. In July I left for a cabin in a semi-wilderness area of the Pisgah National Forest on privately owned land that abuts the Smoky Mountain National Park. With only the Dogwood Flats Creek gurgling by and the sound of waterfalls below the cabin, and the echos of bird song ringing through the forest, I finally heard what my heart had to tell me as thoughts and cares of urban living fell away like an old skin and suddenly I was Present.
It had been many years. I also became aware of how unhealthy I was after many years of stress and working in an environment that does not promote activity and healthy eating. But by American standards I even appear relatively healthy. But up in the mountains, breathing clean air, getting lots of activity on hikes and watching birds; drinking spring water and being in the quiet all day, I realized the full cost of work that is centered around a computer. It has drained my strength and dulled my imagination.
The only reason I had this chance to make the realization of my lifetime is because of the Queen family in Waynesville, NC who own the cabin and 100 acres on which it sits. The “cabin” is a two-story log cabin with a large living area and three spacious bedrooms and two baths, a full kitchen and satellite TV. So it’s a comfortable place to stay while giving guests the time to concentrate on the beauty of the natural surroundings, with lots of rocking chairs on the front porch to sit, rock, and let all the stress or whatever emotions may be present to minimize and finally slip away. I was there to write and to find out what was ailing me. The book of essays that I completed on this mountain retreat came easily in the space of this beautiful, isolated environment. I realized that my original impulse to persuade the public to protect the Earth, in particular to encourage children, teachers and parents to take time in nature, is my true path. Along the way I got off track mostly due to financial necessity. Over the next ten months I will be making a transition to focus my energies and talents back in that direction.