Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thoreau It Away

Still unpacking. My joy at finally receiving all our stuff has quickly turned to despair. As I predicted while packing back in Los Angeles, I'm now opening boxes and thinking, "I can't believe I moved this across the country. Now what am I going to do with it?" Thoreau said, "Simplify, simplify." So now I'm faced with the prospect of downsizing after the move, when I should have done it before and saved about a thousand pounds.

With Thoreau shaking his head at me, I decided to stroll down to the lake, our own little Walden Pond, and cool off a little bit. I've always had a huge respect for nature. I'm a card-carrying tree-hugger from way back. But I've always kept nature at a distance. I don't hike. I don't camp. I love viewing fall foliage, especially from inside a car. Maybe I'm rebelling against my rural Oklahoma upbringing, or maybe I just like things to be neat and tidy, and nature has a tendency to be a big old mess. Either way, I'm now completely surrounded by nature and would very much like to organize it a little.

Sitting on the dock, enjoying the cool breezes and watching the ripples in the water, I kind of got it. You know, got it. Like, I see why people love nature. I see why people want to spend time in it. It's refreshing...but more than that, I can see how it holds a promise to make you cleanse your soul somehow. Since I have more than a drop or two of Cherokee blood in my veins, I tried to look at the surrounding mountains and imagine them devoid of human life. What must it have been like for the Cherokees who decided to flee the Trail of Tears and hide out in the North Carolina mountains? You don't get much closer to nature than that.

Thoreau also said, "Still, we live meanly like ants." Man's true nature may not be so far removed from the wilds he tries to conquer after all. That Thoreau, he said a lot of stuff.

The problem with nature is that once you become part of it, you're fair game. And by game, I mean food. Nature is always waiting for you to fall in a lake or stop to tie your shoe, so it can pounce. Which is probably why rolling over it all with concrete and steel probably gives us a feeling of safety and victory. We've conquered nature. We won't be eaten by bears or moose today.

As I sat on the dock, I looked up at the house and saw Henry step out on the porch. He looked and me, so I patted my leg for him to come down and join me. He stayed where he was, surveyed the scene, then turned around and went back inside. He's a city dog, after all. So I packed up my thoughts and my Thoreau and joined him.

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