To say that nature is a metaphor for life is almost an oxymoron, as we are all a part of nature and not separate from her. Except that as a result of our intelligence and opposable thumbs we have created a very different kind of life for ourselves than the one our genetic predecessors lived. Neanderthal man lived at one with nature. We live in square buildings with central heating, wall-to-wall carpet, refrigeration, electric stoves, luxury automobiles, covered garages, Gore-Tex parkas and Ray Bans. Don’t get me wrong; I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for our modern conveniences. It’s just that there is so much to learn from connecting with nature in such a way in which we feel all of her extremes.
There was a time when I worked in a basement office for nearly two years. Many days I never made it outside and worked past sundown at least half the time. On those days, the only sunlight that hit my face was during the brief walk in the morning from the covered garage to the building entrance—maybe fifty yards. I found myself getting depressed.
Now I have the luxury of working from home. We have a deck in the back of our house that opens to a large beautiful yard. We also have a fire pit and plenty of wood to burn. We live in a relatively quite neighborhood, except for those days when seemingly everyone on the block decides to start up their lawn mowers at the same time. We live close to the Blue Ridge Parkway and are nestled within some amazing mountains. We can also take walks in our neighborhood without breathing the fumes emitted from noisy city busses, as was once the case when I lived in Los Angeles.
The point is not to trash big city environments or even basement offices, but rather to convey one simple wisdom that flows from our indigenous ancestors, and that is that we are all a part of nature. Being that we are a part of nature we can learn about ourselves from spending time in nature and observing and experiencing all that she has to offer.
While we’ve been easing into springtime and warmer temperatures, we had a day last week here in Asheville in which the temperature dropped below thirty, high winds kicked up and snow flurries spun about. Those houseplants that we had just liberated from the confines of our home for the past winter needed to be rushed back inside lest they freeze and die. Facebook flared with rants and complaints about the cold weather, as most of us had it in our minds that spring had arrived.
Yet, there was a lesson in the sudden drop in temperature and the branch braking wind; that life gives us unexpected turns when we least expect it. As nature gives us surprises, and we know she always will, so too does our living expression come with twists and turns when least we expect them. Knowing that nature is unpredictable we usually go into the outdoors somewhat prepared, and whether we are prepared or not it’s foolhardy to curse the elements when we know that it’s just the way that Mother Nature is; so too with life’s unexpected bumps and twists.
What the indigenous people have known for thousands of years is that when we give ourselves over to nature and experience nature on nature’s terms (meaning without resisting her extremes), we grow stronger in every way, including the strength to take life’s many challenges in stride knowing that the bumps and turns are all a part of the process. So instead of cursing the wind, we can give thanks for the lessons that flow from our greatest challenges.