I grew up outside, like a chickadee or a farm cat. The outdoors will always be my home, when I’m inside buildings a large part of my being goes to sleep, night or day. I think many thrive inside and when they do look for nature and adventure they seek out beautiful scenes of blue lakes and thick trees that let golden light trickle in. It becomes a place of temporary restoration. This is not how I connect to nature. From gravel and dirt paths through flat fields that lead the eye out for miles, to a burning sun you want to rip out of the sky, my nature is plain; it is every day and it is breathtakingly fantastic. Even on the interstate when I pass through an area where the land swells, stretching out fat and wide, I feel my entire presence expanding to those limits. It moves rapidly to foot paths and shady spots I will never reside in.
Don’t get me wrong, my home is not far from Devil’s Lake and a dozen other natural places stamped as perfection. I love them too, many nights and lazy afternoons I ride there on my motorcycle to sip in nature, fight her hills, paddle the water, or lay in her branches. Having the privilege that I did to grow up barefoot and running has made me see nature in simpler terms though. My backyard had no fences, at least not one meant to keep humans within certain places. Ten acres of flowers sway there in the valley breeze as well, those thin-stemmed warriors taught me everything I know about resilience and patience. I was told God knew best for them, he watered them with the clouds, caressed them with a sunshine I could never seem to dim. And we watched over them too, I learned how to work with nature, not to control it, not to lie only in its wake but to toil with her. Together we moved her fallen leaves over plants as they went to sleep, split the old to start fresh, removed the weeds to give each flower space to breathe. On many summer evenings I’ve danced down her beaten paths and raced out into the open as purple clouds and green skies brought in rain that would wash yesterday away. That piece of color-changing sky was mine, it wasn’t just above me but all around, kissing the ground under my feet.
I spent two years homeschooling before starting college. I savored my time at home then. I’d take long walks in the snow, contemplating stories to write and places I would go. Sometimes the journey around our square mile, ice crunching under each step, was just a chance to struggle with my friend even though she seemed to be hibernating in everyone else’s eyes. Nature is something we cannot change, no matter how we try, leaves will grow back, the sun will bare her might and the earth shall keep moving in the most miniscule ways. That lack of power we have in nature’s presence is peace, it is the sublime. I fight with her and I love her, she pushes me to grow as big as Sequoias and as fierce as August storms. From tiny pebbles pushing water away we learn how to create ripples in the places we go, gentle, loud, slow or quick. I don’t feel more myself in nature, I feel that I am her. One and the same we move together.