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irma090517

It’s a glorious September weekend here on Cape Cod, which feels a little incongruous when disaster is raining down in so many places – hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes, fires gone wild.

Perhaps nature is telling us something. Something like, You do not control me. Or maybe, You cannot ignore me.

How often we ignore the natural world, treating it as a scenic backdrop to our human-centric busyness. Or treating it as simply a resource from which to extract whatever we need to sustain our standard of living. Our 24-hour lighting and climate-controlled buildings supports this confidence that nature is under our control. Things like sharks and earthquakes and hurricane only show up in the movies. Except in times like this.

I’m not saying that nature is a pissed-off Mother who is trying to teach us a lesson. (That’s just another view that puts us in the center of the universe.) If anything, natural disasters show us that we are not the end all and be all. Our deep ancestors knew their place in the scheme of things. Right now we could use a little of their wisdom, their humility.

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In the June Summer House Soaps newsletter, I wrote about my intention to convert our backyard shed into a little retreat where I could sleep outside to the sound of crickets. Publically declaring a goal is said to be a powerful motivator. I promised to post my progress on this blog.

So here is my end-of-summer report on my little house project:

I’ve done zip, nada, not one thing.

I guess I overestimated the power of publically-stated intentions, and underestimated how busy June, July, and August would be. Oh well.

But here’s the thing. I have been sleeping outside to the sound of crickets.

During the meteor showers in early August and on several subsequent nights, I pulled an air mattress, sleeping bag, and pillow onto the second floor deck out back. There, I slept not only to the sound of crickets but the rasping of katydids and the yodeling of coyotes. I didn’t see a lot of comets, but looked up into the milky way and tracked the moon as it moved across the sky.

It was better than my fantasy cabin. I felt nested and protected, but no structure stood between me and the night. In the morning when I woke all damp with dew, I was surrounded by nothing but blue sky, green waving treetops, and the occasional gull soaring through the vastness.

So delicious.

There’s a lesson in this. Sometimes what we actually want is much simpler and closer at hand than we think. We don’t have to bundle it into a big project that makes it all-but-unattainable, or at least very costly in terms of time, effort, and money.

Maybe we think a wilderness trip or a cabin in the woods would give us a feeling of immersion in nature, and no doubt those would be grand things to do.

But sometimes it’s available, a few steps away, up on the roof.

Ever notice how the books you choose to read can be a mirror of how you’re feeling about your life at the moment? Often they reflect what you’re yearning for, struggling with, or deeply engaged in.

It’s like that for me. When life feels like a hard slog, I’m often attracted to gritty, realistic tales of adversity. I’m looking for a message that says, yes, life is hard, but redemption is possible. At other times, the last thing I want to do is to immerse myself in someone else’s problems. So I reach for fantasy, cozy mysteries, chick lit. Sometimes I just want to fly away from it all, and I gravitate towards travel books.

Last week, while killing time in Barnes and Noble, I decided to use up a gift card I’d been carrying around. I also had in my purse a little notebook that was full of random reminders to myself, including names of books that had piqued my interest based on reviews or recommendations. Turns out most of these books were in stock, even the older ones.

When I unpacked my bag, here’s what I saw:

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer  – (a nonfiction book written in the 90s about a young man who disappeared into the wilds of Alaska)

Wild – From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed(current best-selling memoir about a woman who finds healing through solo hiking)

Last Child in the Woods – Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv

Whoa! So who’s the one with the nature deficit disorder? It’s been such a busy summer that I’ve barely been outside, haven’t gardened, and have only made it to the beach once. Clearly, I’m hungry for nature…even if only between the pages of a book.

Last night we went to see Beasts of the Southern Wild, a movie that celebrates the connection its characters have with the natural world. On the way home we stopped for ice cream cones and watched the full moon rise over the trees. I wanted to throw back my head and howl. Guess it’s time to get outside.

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