Funny how traveling adjusts ones perspective. I know every time I leave Elk Lake - whether for a day or a month, I can hardly wait to get back. However, with my recent reading and research effecting my 'view' of things around me, I'm seeing things a bit differently (I'd like to say, 'more clearly', but I'm not that confident yet).
According to some studies I've been reviewing lately, today's children are negatively impacted by their lack of contact with nature. Now, that's not really the point of where I'm headed here, but I see it as a by-product of other issues - bigger issues. Because many of these children are growing up in homes where their parents love them and seek to nuture their development in positive directions.
Most researchers have chaulked it up to fear - fear on the part of parents. While I don't think, as a people in general, we consider ourselves a society of 'chickens', the signs of our all-too-abundant fear are abundantly obvious. Take the 'normal' home in the 'typical' subdivision:
Locks and usually deadbolts on all doors
Additional sticks of wood in any sliders
Alarm systems common place in many homes
Curtains and blinds closed against any prying eyes
High solid fences surrounding most yards
And the list could go on and on. Then add the 'typical' actions of the 'usual' dweller in suburbia:
After morning routine they head to their garage, get in their car, lock the doors, start the car, open the automatic garage door, back out, close the garage door, and head for town. Returning to their home they reverse the routine. And the result - not only are they, often unknowlingly, controlled by their fears, but they lose out on other levels as well.
A good gauge is our interactions with the great outdoors. Except for the person to whom yardwork is a delight, a hobby, a relaxation (and boy can you tell 'who' they are as you drive through the neighborhood), time outside is a 'chore', a 'job', an 'interruption' in their precious leisure time (and precious it is in today's fast paced society) if we're talking yard work.
And, time outside enjoying a physical activity such as camping, hiking, biking, and the like, is relegated to those rare three-day weekends or the annual family vacation (if the kids don't demand another theme park). How sad!
Another area we're loosing touch is with our neighbors. Having lived several months with my Mother-in-law - in downtown Salem, Oregon - a few years ago, the realities of city life hit me hard, right between the eyes. As a general rule, these people don't know each other. Most know few if any of their neighbors (even by sight - and even after several years in the same neighborhood). People don't look at each other, even in the aisles of the grocery store. And, heaven forbid you speak to a stranger. This just isn't done.
Now, I know this a generalization, and based on my own experience, but I found it interesting to read the following excerpt in Tony Hillerman's book, "Hunting Badger". Through his character, Joe Leaphorn, Tony says,
". . .Where I came from people didn't even know who lived three houses down the block."
"Lot more people in Baltimore," Leaphorn said.
"Not a lot more people on our block."
"More people on your block, I'll bet, than in a twenty-mile circle around here," Leaphorn said. . ."I have a theory. . .You city folks have so many people crowding you they're a bother. So you try to avoid them. We rural people don' have enough, so we're interested. . .Out here, everybody looks at you," he said. "You're somebody different. Hey, here's another human, and I don't even know him yet. In the city, nobody wants to make eye contact. They have built themselves a little privacy bubble - hard to get privacy in crowded places - and if you look at them, or speak on the street, then you're an intruder."
Our break with nature is sad - very sad - and it is bound to have negative impacts not only on us, but on the world around us, and more importantly, on our children. But our break with people is worse, for, in the end, no man is an island unto himself. We need each other, and if we don't know each other, we WILL fear each other, and this, is the ultimate society breakdown.
So, once again I am reminded how blessed I am to live in a place where people who live in a 50 mile radius are considered 'neighbors' - and neighbors, where I live, are always considered friends.
Lady of the Lake