as if I’m entering an alternate universe.
Not wanting to miss one instance of summer in the mountains, a few weeks ago I brought my laptop computer outside, sat on the front porch, and let myself be immersed in this complex landscape: the wind through the pines, stirring up the yellow pollen, which was blowing in sheets across the landscape; nuthatches, hummingbirds, house wrens, and other birds making flight patterns from the trees to the ground and from tree to tree, with bird calls piercing the air all around me; a new crop of rabbits, their fur brown and soft, enjoying the fresh spring greens (below); all the newly sprung flowers: purple and white lupine and columbine and the wild roses; and, best of all, the aspen trees, the sunlight through their leaves casting a clear, holy light on everything and the sound of their leaves shimmering in the wind the most beautiful sound next to silence.
At some point, I realized that the rest of the world beyond this front porch where I was sitting had ceased to exist. There was only this thick layered world of pine trees, grasses, and sky—a saturation of smells and sounds.
Thoreau says it better than I can. In his journal, my favorite naturalist wrote, “You must walk so gently as to hear the finest sounds, the faculties being in repose. . . . True, out of doors my thought is commonly drowned, as it were, and shrunken, pressed down by stupendous piles of light ethereal influences.”
I can see that I have two existences: one is the world of computers, where I spend most of my life and where feelings are subsumed to the hard and cold reality of lines of type, of opening and deleting e-mails, of web pages where information comes in the form of boxed pages. For me, it’s an artificial world, one I can’t touch, smell or feel.
And then there’s the cabin and the natural world that surrounds it, where it feels like my mind could go deeper than I can hardly imagine, where I feel everything. There are no borders or straight lines here: the creek weaves its way through this valley, the trees bend to catch the light, the ground squirrel zigs and zags across the yard, its nose alert for food. Not one thing here responds to a punch of my computer key.
To be here in the summer is to live by my senses, to abandon any pretense that I have any interest in the artificial world of work, and to succumb to the natural world in all its richness. Let it go.