Being in nature inspires a Psalm-like awe. Civilized to the point of spending virtually all my time indoors, spending all day in the lake or among the trees, it is easy to understand how religions began. Our consciousness tells us that we’re somehow special, but nature has a way of giving the lie to that conceit. Out here in grizzly bear habitat, I’m not the top predator (vegetarians seldom are). Not a swimmer, I’m bound to either boat or dry land in order to survive. Out here I’m just a part of nature.
Mountains, as the sites of tremendous geological forces, bring rare resources to the surface. The entrepreneur sees this as an opportunity while the mystic sees it as a chance to worship. Miners have long excavated for metals and gems. Loggers have trucked away timber for everything from houses to match sticks. The outflow of the lake is dammed to create energy and keeps the water level steady. Standing on a mountain trail dwarfed by mammoth cedars, tripping over rocks, feeling the chill of the cold water straight from last winter’s melt, I am no monarch here. I am but a creature among other creatures.
Some feel threatened by such belittlement. I lay on my back and watch the stars begin to twinkle to life and I know the truth is on the side of nature. Out in the wilderness civilization feels like the real predator. The years I’ve spent away from this place have somehow depleted my soul. I’ve been mined and lumberjacked and dammed by a society that sees only money where the mystic feels nature. Yes, religion is found here in the dying gasp of freedom about to be conformed to the uncomfortable clothes and unforgiving pavement of something I’m told is better than this. The sky above me, I know, stretches out to eternity. The “reality” to which I’m about to return reaches only as far as the bank. Nature is the true civilization.