“If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown. But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
I can’t read the works of authors from ye olden times without marveling at how different our language today is, and how we’ve dumbed it down even further with our text shorthand and emoticons. I also can’t read anything that might be considered a classic without a dictionary, but that doesn’t really bother me–it just makes me feel stoopid. Like the people who really think stupid is spelled stoopid.
I wonder sometimes, if RWE was raised in our culture today, if his essays on nature wouldn’t be reduced to, “Nature is kinda cool. Stars are sparkly. And boobs.” Or if he would have been too distracted with technology and television to bother writing an essay on nature at all.
I read some RWE before I went to my Mom’s last month. They live in the country, and I starting thinking about how long it had been since I have seen a night sky, unpolluted by city lights and sounds.
It’s been at least 3 years.
So after reading some of his essays, I was inspired and I vowed to go out and enjoy some nature while I was there.
And I tried, I really did, but when everyone had gone to bed and I went outside to take it all in, nature quickly put me in my place.
Of course I had my phone with me. It doubles as a flashlight and prevents me from ever truly enjoying solitude. The glow from the screen attracted every bug in the vicinity and they flew at my face with delight.
I turned it off, and it was too dark to move. I sat on a bench on their back porch; my original plan of taking a blanket out in the field to star gaze was quickly discarded. I looked up at the sky and I didn’t see any stars, just darkness and my own sweat burning my eyes.
The sounds of the frogs in the pond behind their house were loud and overwhelming. The cicadas joined the chorus and between the bugs and the nature symphony it was more aggressive than peaceful.
I thought to myself, “Nature sucks,” and I went back inside.
Today, I am taking my daughter out to the ranch for the first time. My brothers will be there with their kids, and they want to camp and fish, and do ranchy things. But, I’m worried that K is not quite old enough to handle nature. I’m also worried that I don’t really like nature that much anymore.
I remember the camping trips from our childhood and my dad would spend a lot of time packing and preparing for them. He would bring a trailer full of camping gear: tents, cots, sleeping bags, fishing gear, cooking supplies, food, drinks, and meal plans. He was an Eagle Scout–the man knew how to plan a camping trip, but I suspect my Mom had a hand in most of these upgrades. He probably would have been content to camp with a sleeping bag, a fishing pole, and a case of beer. He would set up a porta-potty, mostly for my benefit I suppose, but duecing in the woods probably isn’t really fun for guys either. He did what he could to make camping more comfortable for us.
He would go down there the week before our trip, mow the campground and spray industrial strength bug spray in the trees and the grass so that the ticks were at least minimally controlled.
But we’re going down there with no prep, no real plan, in the hottest month of the year in Texas.
I don’t plan on camping, we’ll be staying at my grandmother’s old house, but I’m still nervous about what lessons nature will have for my daughter and I in the next 24 hours.
I’m sure it will include lots of sweat, river water, ticks, mosquitos, and scorpions.
Wish us luck.