“I’ve picked a quiet place to sit among the holly trees. There are some track members running through every now and then. I guess I don’t mind the temporary and fleeting traces of human as much as I mind the constant white noise coming from, I presume, the cars traveling nearby. I am sitting in the shade, feeling the coolness of the grass beneath me, smelling their scent, hoping ticks won’t find me here. I’m wearing shorts. I’ve already killed a spider that was climbing up my left leg. It’s nice here, for the most part, to feel [originally “kill,” which is a very interesting mistake] the holly leaves rustling as the wind passes through. But the track boys are getting louder as they shout across to each other, separated by some distance and many trees. They sometimes drown the birds out, and are in turn drowned out by the sounds of a train rumbling through. I flick another light-colored insect off my right knee. My arm is poked by a holly leaf and a mosquito buzzes around my left ear. I kill a fly that landed on my hand, but fail to kill the mosquito feasting on my left arm. As I’m writing this, I wonder why I’m choosing to focus on all the sources of nuisance, instead of the greenery and beauty that surrounds me. I am a stranger to this place–and all I can feel is discomfort. I feel the itch rise up in my arm, under my skin, and I try to resist the urge to scratch. Ants are now climbing on to my notebook pad, on the grass. I flick them away, wanting some personal space–wanting to claim my territory, just like how the holly tree poked me when I got too close. I see the mosquito bite site rise up in its unusual shape, irregular and ugly on my arm. Another one has just bitten me on my right knee. I think they want me to leave. I think I want to leave, feeling the itch spread through.”
Update: total mosquito bite count (all acquired in an hour in the Crum): 5
Reading the articles by Lopez and Forbes have made me aware of how guilty and ignorant my existence in connection with nature has been in the past 20+ years of my life. Yet, as uplifting and inspiring as Forbes’s idea of a compassionate and altruistic whole community sounds, I feel a sense of powerlessness when I realize how many personal fears I will have to conquer first in order to get to that holistic sense of well-being. He speaks of “a chance to re-invent ourselves,” and I can feel pessimistic thoughts flooding into consciousness (2). I lack the courage necessary for change, and have too strong of a “desire to preserve, save, protect” myself from possible harms I might encounter in nature (11). I prevent myself from adventures that might help develop my relationship with nature, always afraid of what might happen–this is what Forbes would call the “uniquely human artifice for trying to keep things the same, a defense against answering the complex and difficult question of our relationship to life, and to death” (12). In his words, I am avoiding the opportunity to be truly alive. As I read on with admiration and slight envy your emotional autobiographies of first encounters with nature, my mind draws a blank on what my first memory of nature is. It might have been when I was 6–I remember picking up autumn leaves while walking down a park-like setting with my mom, somewhere in or near Beijing. But even that is so far from my ideal of what “nature” is–the road we walked down was paved cement or asphalt: evenly textured, manmade, nonorganic. Most of my memories involving experiences in the natural world are attached to a sense of a fear. Fear, when I tried to descend from a hike. Fear, when I swam out to the middle of a lake and began imagining what creatures were underneath the surface; hyperventilating. Fear, when we were out on the Sunday tour with Betsy, and had to walk through narrow pathways–looking down to my right, a steep slope–imagining falling–my legs going weak, my head light, my mouth uttering exasperated tones, murmuring words that would’ve been censored on public television. My dilemma is, according to Forbes, that unless I conquer these irrational fears, I will not be whole. In this gap between nature and me is a missing piece to my “sense of personal identity–who we are and what we want to become” (17). Certainly, my tendency to cling on to my fears extend beyond my reactions to the natural world–my many fears of social failures probably stem from the same source. I chose to take this course so that I can explore my fear of life/death, nature/self–each pair represents two sides of the same coin–in an attempt to cure this personal “pathology of disconnection and alienation” (16). Quite a risky business, it seems now.