crossposted with No Unsacred Place

Every now and then we need to immerse ourselves in Nature.

The idea of living in cities – much less in suburbs – is a very new phenomenon. Even after cities became commonplace – when “civilization” began – the majority of people still lived on the land. It wasn’t until 1920 that more people in the United States lived in urban areas than in rural ones. By 1990 75% of Americans lived in cities or suburbs – away from the land.

That presents a challenge for those of us practicing a Nature religion. Through regular spiritual practice, we can form and maintain relationships with Nature and the Spirits of Nature no matter where we live.

But at least occasionally we need to spend a few days in Nature, on the land, away from our cities and suburbs and air conditioners and smartphones. Every now and then we need to immerse ourselves in Nature.

Through a scheduling coincidence I’ve done that the past two weekends. The first weekend was spent camping in the woods, while the second was spent at a Druid gathering held at a kids’ summer camp. Each time I’ve come back physically rested, mentally restored, and spiritually revived.

When you immerse yourself in Nature you realize how little you truly need. A tent or a cabin, some bedding, a source of light, food and drink. You don’t need a showcase kitchen filled with stainless steel appliances to cook a meal – a fire or a camp stove works just fine. You don’t need a closet full of clothes – what you can wear or carry works just fine. So much of what we think we have to have is the result of psychological manipulation by the advertising industry. Immersing yourself in Nature helps you separate needs from desires and desires from artificial stimulation.

When you immerse yourself in Nature time slows down. With no TV schedule, no traffic and no appointments, life can proceed at a more leisurely pace. You wake up when you wake up. You eat when you finish cooking. There is little you have to do, and when that’s done, you’re left with yourself, your fellow humans, and the rest of Nature. Meditation comes easy (or at least easier). Conversation comes easy. You remember how to tell stories, to share experiences, to exchange ideas about what’s really important in life.

When you immerse yourself in Nature you see things you normally overlook. Spending a few minutes outside each day is helpful – and critical – but there is only so much you can see on short excursions into Nature. Not only is there more to see in the wild, you have more time to see it and fewer distractions to prevent you from seeing it. Step out into your back yard and you may see a tree. Spend a day in the woods and you’ll see bark and limbs and leaves. Go for a walk around the block and you may see a squirrel. Spend a day in the woods and you’ll squirrels eating and storing food and playing. There is so much for us to see if we’ll only take time to look.

When you immerse yourself in Nature you’re reminded of your place in the Universe. A thunderstorm sounds very different inside a tent than it does inside a house. Your seemingly-important plans and schedules can be altered by ordinary wind and rain and heat and cold. And looking up at dark skies and seeing thousands of stars (instead of the dozens you can see in cities and suburbs) reminds you that the universe is vast and we are so very small. We’re a part of Nature and a part of Life – but only a part. It’s not all about us.

I like technology and the modern world. Travel and communication have made it possible for us to learn and experience more than could have been imagined even a few hundred years ago. We live longer and easier lives than did our preindustrial ancestors.

But as good as all that is, it is no substitute for forming and maintaining strong connections to the land, the sky, and the sea. It is no substitute for experiencing Nature and the Spirits of Nature, live, raw and wild.

Every now and then we need to immerse ourselves in Nature.

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