Each summer, I visit the Chequamegon National Forest in Wisconsin. An amazingly beautiful and lush forest, this place is my sanctuary. I stay at a low-key resort, in a cabin overlooking Lake Namekagon. It’s a breath of fresh air – quite literally – to spend two weeks each year at this place, away from bustling streets and busy people. It’s like a different world.
Or, at least, it was. I had a very different experience this past July. Upon entering our cabin, my fiancé and I were greeted by a large television, equipped with Direct TV. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a TV-lover, through and through. There was, however, something strange about having to look around the television to see the lake.
We overlooked this; after all, we don’t own the cabin. Some resort-goers might crave 500 channels before they crave hiking and fishing. Convinced that the TV (both the sight of it and the temptation to watch it) would put a damper on things, we went out on the water.
As I started the old, rented pontoon boat, something occurred to me. We were no better than the TLC, MTV, and MSNBC addicts. Yes, our boat was used for the enjoyment of the outdoors; however, it left a muddy, green wake behind it. Yes, we came to the resort to get away from everyday conveniences and to surround ourselves with nature, but we were staying in a cabin – not a tent or a sleeping bag. We cooked our breakfast every morning on a fairly modern stove, we drank coffee made in a Bunn coffeemaker, and we turned on the electric heat if the cabin got too cold. It turns out we weren’t roughing it; we were faking it.
Since this realization, I’ve been troubled. I don’t understand where our appreciation for nature went. I don’t understand how misguided travelers – myself included – consider themselves to be experiencing nature, when really all we’re doing is glancing at it between commercials. Granted, everyone experiences nature in a different way. For some, glancing at it through a window – or on a TV screen – might be enough.
I’m concerned, though, that by accepting this as a legitimate way to experience nature, we are missing something. Or, perhaps, we are missing everything. On a basic level, there is something satisfying about feeling a different kind of air on your skin, and about feeling the crunch of leaves and dirt beneath your feet. Where city lights don’t corrupt the night sky, we can see stars in a new way, and the level of darkness is foreign and exciting.
There more to this simple human/nature combination than deep satisfaction, though. There is a danger present in the ways we currently explore nature. It is common for travelers to hop on boats, jet skis, wave runners, or ATVs to travel through lakes and forests. In these cases, vacation Goers are experiencing nature – while leaving a trail of pollution behind.
And what about our cabin? Built in the middle of the forest, trees had to be removed in order for the resort to exist. There is an inherent disconnect, here: the resort was designed to house nature-loving travelers who want to see the forest’s natural beauty, and yet in order for the resort to exist, some of the forest had to be cut down. Instead of experiencing untouched and unscathed nature, vacationers are experiencing a forest marred by human interference.
This is the way with us. We, whether intentionally or accidentally, can’t help but tinker with nature in its natural forms. Even when we attempt to truly experience it, we are also hindering it. So, we must consider some simple pieces of advice if we wish….
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