I have been thinking about my love for nature, which I would describe as still growing.And did I always love nature? I'm not sure.
I certainly did notconsciously love nature as a young child. But in mymany, manymemories of childhood, the outdoor worldplays a starring role: drinking in the sweetness of lilac as I roller skated past our neighbor's hedge; walking home from school in crispOctober sunshine; examining the season's first snowflakesas they fell; chasing lightening bugs, barefoot through the grass,on a summer evening. All of these moments arepleasant to recall. But did Iever think to myself, at the time,that I loved the nature around me? Never.Nature was simply there, as were family, home, everything else in my life. I took it all for granted, as kidsdo.
It wasn't until early adolescence that Iknew I loved nature. I remember vaguely, as a sixth grader,going alone on a Saturday morning totheUniversity of Washington arboretum, nearour Seattle home.The one clear spot in that hazy memory is standing, in wonder, by atiny stream that ran through a meadow-like space in the arboretum. The stream was a pretty little thing, running clear and unencumbered between grassy banks.The stones, mosses, and twigs in the stream all shonevividly through themovingwater. I felt astirring inside, an excited new aliveness.
Today I am not sure just why that scenewas so special; no doubt I had seen prettier sights before that morning at the arboretum.The specialness of standing by the stream, that has stayed with me all these years,must havehad something to do with my age. Early adolescenceisa time of "waking up,' Iremember my son'ssixth grade teacher sayingabout a decade ago. I assumedhe was talking about sex, but I think adolescence is also a time whenmany young people begin to come alive spiritually.
Yes, I believe I was looking at that little stream through new eyes. And they were the eyes of one who had decided on her own to visit the arboretum, who had gone there by herself, just as a grown-up might. I had chosen this experience all on my own, and it belonged to me.
In the months that followed my visit to the arboretum, Ibegan seeking other opportunities to be alone in nature. On weekend campouts with my Girl Scout troop, I needed to be the first one up in the morning, so that I could take a walk by myself in the quiet woods.There I found delight and a deep happiness.
Even now,the forest is where I go to soothe my spirit, to center myself.And while sharing the forest with a loved one can also be a fine experience, it is when I am in the forest alone that I am most deeply connected with the earth's sacredness.These days I frequently go into the woods alone for what I call "Spirit time.' These forest forays have given rise to many of the most heartfelt writings Ihave shared on my website, www.TheEarthConnection.org.