If you are like me, you are absolutely saturated with politics and handwringing and memes and cute videos and anger and talk, talk, talk. When I sat down to write this letter, I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t add even more talk to the airwaves of overanalysis. Even if I had something brilliant to say, I fear that you, dear readers, have heard enough at this point. If you have not, you may be addicted to that echo chamber that keeps rehashing thoughts and opinions so often that you hope if you scream them loud enough they will be absolute truth. So let’s not go there again, for everyone’s sake.
Why not go for a walk? Go ski the backcountry? Run? Why not just turn off and just reconnect to the outdoors? If you are reading this magazine, that means something to you. I’m not suggesting you forget the problems of the planet, or that you stop trying to do something to fix them. In fact, I am saying the opposite. Taking some deep breaths in the wild, unplugging, will bring you back better able to take on those tasks. Nature, has the power to heal, to, ironically, put our brains back online with their regular primal and pure programming.
I recently saw the French film “Seasons,” it’s a stunning, at times tough to watch, documentary by the makers of “Winged Migration” that follows the cycle of life and death and survival in the primordial golden age of the forest—until that rhythm begins to change. Man evolves technologically and transforms the forest forever, bringing mass extinctions, war and even climate change to the world of animals (and human hunter-gathers as well). Our threat to the planet has never looked so grim and sad to me as it does in these painstakingly beautiful shots of animals hunting, escaping, birthing and eventually being exterminated and pushed out of their homes.
But in the midst of this, there are moments of such sublime wonder that all I wanted to do was re-remember those rhythms of nature. I wanted to get out and touch the dripping water of a spring, watch ousels dip into creeks, crunch through snow, sit in silence while I watched animals in their native habitats. I also wanted to recommit to trying to do something to save those deepest moments of being. Of our species the biologist E.O. Wilson has said: “Humanity today is like a waking dreamer, caught between the fantasies of sleep and the chaos of the real world. The mind seeks but cannot find the precise place and hour. We have created a Star Wars civilization, with Stone Age emotions, medieval institutions and godlike technology. We thrash about. We are terribly confused by the mere fact of our existence, and a danger to ourselves and to the rest of life.”
So true, and so well portrayed in “Seasons” that my 12-year-old daughter sobbed as the film went on. But it did end with a message of hope, that nature is resilient, that animals live in our midst still and it is not too late to reconcile our civilization with the continued survival of the planet’s fragile biota.
To that end I say get out there. Ski powder in Japan and listen to the birds that call in the bare branches. Drink from the glacier-melt streams of Iceland. Go see sandhill cranes migrate over the Great Plains. Walk in your backyard and observe. Then find a way to keep all of this.