I’m afraid it’s finally happened.
I have crossed over to the age where you cling to nostalgia and wonder about those halcyon days when life was simpler. A time when we played outdoors until the street lights came on, beckoning us home to dinner. I fear the technological advances we’re now accustomed to have dulled our senses to our natural surroundings. It’s true this happens to all generations, my parents often regaled us with stories of an idyllic childhood similar to the Leave it to Beaver culture of the 50s (confession: I adore this time period of Americana) when we would dare to play Colecovision on a sunny 70 degree day in Southern California.
The last place I expected to see this sentiment play out was while reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed. The memoir recounts her 1,100 mile trek across the Mojave Desert to Oregon along the Pacific Crest Trail. Part A Walk in the Woods and part Eat, Pray, Love, she comes to the hike in search of answers and a way to reclaim her life after the loss of her mother and dissolution of her marriage. It’s poignant and tragic, touching and funny, I’d highly recommend reading with a Kleenex in hand (even if Oprah selected it for the renewal of her book club).
As Cheryl traverses the Sierra Nevada, she gives her readers a glimpse of how the Pacific Crest Trail came to be. Surprisingly, a woman, Catherine Montgomery, first thought of the idea for a border-to-border hiking trail. Not surprisingly, the idea was embraced by local hikers and came to fruition thanks to Clinton Churchill Clarke. He took up the cause, inspired by what he saw as a “culture that spent too much time sitting in soft seats in motors, too much sitting in soft seats in movies.” The year? 1932.
Reading through this passage, I found it stuck with me for the remaining 100+ pages. Avid adventurer or not, I think this concept is something everyone can identify with. Whether it’s a hike in the woods or enjoying a leisurely stroll through a park or backyard, there is just something nature gives us that we can’t get from a computer or television screen. It’s a connection to the elements — earth, air and water — that stirs the souls of our evolutionary past and for some, stokes our passion to explore, wander and experience.
But perhaps more importantly, it reminds us of the trappings of creature comforts and a life lived disconnected from the land, drawn further into the modern conveniences of every day life. Of course I ponder this on a Tuesday night after work, sitting in front of my computer instead of taking my dog for a walk (full disclosure: it is raining out). I suppose at the end of the day it all comes down to balance and making time for those activities that restore us. And I know I can take comfort in the fact that history does repeat itself, ensuring the cycle will begin anew.
Which leaves me to wonder, what will the Millennials think in 10-15 years time as they look at a new generation of kids? Only time and technology will tell. But the beauty is, nature will (hopefully) always be the same.