Trekking into the vast, wild forest behind my house became an everyday event for my brother and me as children. The two of us grasped our Swiss army knives to form makeshift spears out of fallen branches on the forest floor. Even hissing snakes and spike-ridden vines did not deter our voyage into this Great Frontier.
This childlike perception of our adventures could not be further from reality. In reality, the woods of my adolescence has less in common with a wild forest than my house cat has with an African lion. Stretching no more than 30 feet deep and 200 feet across, the sparsely wooded area contained little more than reeds, ants, and ticks. However, nature’s presence at the edge of my lawn allowed me to engage with it’s power and retain my comfort. My introverted nature found solace in the dull roar of insect sounds, free from seas of people. Eventually, a love for nature sprouted. This love did not grow from distance from wilderness, as with the European settlers, but from distance from crowds.
I generally feel more comfortable in woods than crowded cities due to this experience with tame, peaceful woodlands at home. Internal calm in the woods brought me to value presence in a space, or engagement in my immediate surroundings. Social media and crowded places disinterest me for this reason. Their overwhelming nature diminishes my ability to engage with them. A quiet suburban forest, however, can arrests my attention for hours. This perception of a domesticated plot of trees and vines as “nature” may seem simplistic, but in reality, it acted as a bridge from the comfort of my modern home to a love for the ever ambiguous “Great Outdoors.”