It’s hard not to hold your breath in front of a majestic landscape of mountain chains surrounding a pristine blue lake. Something about the serene atmosphere, clean air and bright colors makes you naturally dilute your pupils and try take in as much as you can in. Romanticism and transcendentalism may be values that emerged in the early 18th and 19th centuries, but they still find their effects in today’s society. The awe inspiring feeling associated with nature – be it mountains, forests, cliffs, lakes, seashores, waterfalls etc.… – has the ability to strip us down to a basic sense of humanity and remind us of our own smallness and vulnerability.
When asked if I felt a deep connection to nature, I stepped, without hesitating for a second, towards the “I strongly agree” poster. But to the question “do you feel more comfortable in the woods or downtown in a city?”, I wait a moment longer before answering. Downtown in a city, is my initial, without-thinking-about-it-too-much response. But then something feels at odds: could I possibly claim to have a “connection” to nature and yet prefer an urban space over it?
The reason why I think my comfort lies more in an urban setting may be because, on an unconscious level, I have come to draw a very rigid distinction between me and nature. When I appreciate nature, I feel as though I am appreciating something that is distinctively outside of myself or beyond myself. When I want to be in contact with nature and cultivate this “deep connection” with it, I travel. I take the car, the boat, the train: I have to move to a specific destination because I am not in immediate contact with it and therefore in some ways I don’t think as nature as being part of my everyday surroundings.
However, I don’t think this feeling of comfort I associate with urban living has limited or weakened my appreciation of nature. Even if I don’t picture myself camping out in the woods for weeks and weeks, I wouldn’t say I am less adamant about environmental action and caring about our world.