Why should I love nature although I do sort of

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It springs into existence, unconscious, perfect, free, takes on a physical body, lets circumstance complete it.

Today, we had our first snow of the 2018/19 winter. It’s early this year, so early in fact that it caught people unprepared.

The kindergarteners have not yet seen the winter expectations video because they did NOT understand what “no throwing snow” meant or “you must have snow pants to play in the snow”.

Two kindergarteners were crying because their hands were so cold. Because that’s what happens when you make snowballs with bare hands. Apparently, they’ve never played with snow before?? A 1st grader lamented sweetly, “I want to play in the snow.” Makes me sad. Come on parents: get your kids prepared. They’re Iowa kids 💪.

The big kids lost their minds: four 3rd graders looked at me as if I were insane when I told them to drop their snowballs, 4th grade footballers were tackling AND throwing snow, and 6th grade was throwing NOT snow but very loud f-bombs around at soccer.

So I was too busy to get too cold despite two hours in an 18-degree windchill. Don’t get me wrong…recess today rocked!! I also helped build snowmen, explain how ice forms, pushed some big kids on swings as well as little kids, and got called a “cool ninja” (because of my mask).

I love this time of year.

I grew up in Iowa but lived in NY and then FL. After 8 years in Florida, I really missed the seasons. I hated winter as a kid, but much of that was growing up poor and not having all the outer wear that makes it comfortable. That’s why I have always made the effort to have all the pieces for my kids and extras when they get wet or lose them. I’m grateful I can do this for my kids. And myself.

I do enjoy the hot summer and beaches, too. But I tire of paradise. I tire of summer, fall, winter, and spring…usually just in time for the new season to begin. It’s a splendid system we have here in the Midwest. Change.

I love the changing seasons.

I’m not really an outdoorsy person. It took me a long time to understand this, because there are many things I like about nature, and yet I don’t care much for outdoor activities. I have had friends who walk, camp, hike, geocash, boat, picnic, and just find any reason to be in a park, but I usually choose something different.

What I’ve discovered is I like nature when it’s manicured. I was thinking of this today because I had the choice to meet someone for a hike or for coffee, and I chose coffee.

During the summer, I like being in my back yard, lawn mowed, in my gazebo or swimming in my clear-blue pool, with a fly swatter and a can of wasp killer nearby. During the winter, I like sitting in my sunroom, drinking coffee, warmed by the rays, while I watch the snow-melt trickle from the roof. But I also like experiencing extremes. I love recess duty in August, when I’m enduring direct 100-degree sun for two hours, and January, when I’m navigating a windchill of 2 degrees for two hours. I like experiencing nature with a purpose, otherwise, I’d rather be surrounded by civilization. Civilization is much more interesting to me.

It’s good to know who you are, to see yourself without regard to expectations, to the boxes you build for yourself.

But nature teaches us

Laozi and Zhuangzi use nature imagery and stories to help us conceptualize our world differently. It’s not about preferring the wilderness.

We reify, manipulate, and coerce through language, action, and desire; these are ways we mediate — limit, filter, obscure — experience. Other animals respond in a  less mediated way to the world. But that’s not all there is to say on the matter. Other animals are spontaneous but not novel. What is natural for us is to have stories. We get closer to Dao when we live with less mediation but also with more appreciation for contingency and diversity.

We can learn to respond to events in direct and spontaneous ways, like other animals do, but in addition to this, we have a capacity for creativity. We create stories from perspectives that are ever-changing. Daoism wants us to recognize the contingency of all things, including ourselves, our perspectives, and our identities:

Given that the things and events are invariably entertained from some perspective or other, they are always unique. And the radical temporality of experience that will neither be arrested nor denied guarantees that all attempts to theorize about these events, while often of contingent value, will ultimately be outrun by the processive character of experience.

Our thoughts and language are not tied to a world, but function actively to articulate and realize one. In Daoism there is no appeal to a static vision of a reality or a mind that passively mirrors it. It offers rather a wholly transactional relationship between a world-making heart-and-mind and a heart-and-mind-shaping world. In this process, we tap the indeterminate aspect of our experience to think and speak a novel world into being. (Ames, Roger and David L Hall. Dao De Jing: A Philosophical Translation. Random House Publishing Group.)

 

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