Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Inside - Outside

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about inside versus outside. I was reminded of the differences again last evening when I settled down for the night and turned out the light. Within a minute or so, the wind picked up, and the trees danced back and forth. I could see the action from the large window by my bedside. I could hear the wind through the open window. But I couldn’t feel the wind, so the result was a bit like watching a large-screen TV with a good sound system.

Even living in a cabin in the woods is not anything like living IN the woods. It’s true I can be in the woods faster than almost everyone just by stepping outside, but inside is still inside, and I have to go outside, just like everyone else, to really experience the outdoors.

I spend a lot of time around people who are rarely outside, let alone in the outdoors. Their experience of life is much different than mine, often different in more ways than I can even imagine. One difference I did discover the other day when the air conditioning went out in my office. Now, the day wasn’t hot, and the temperature inside went up to 80-82 degrees. I consider that warm but not terrible.

Well, you can not believe how people reacted. They unlocked our building’s security system and propped open the doors. They whined. They were dripping in sweat. I continued working on as always and didn’t really notice it much at all. But later, I realized that these were the same folks who are rarely outside, who go directly from their climate-controlled houses to their attached garages and their only outside time is the short walk from the office parking lot to the office.

How can the outdoors, the real Outdoors, be experienced and understood by folks like these as something beautiful and important? In their day to day lives, they are so far removed from the experience that I don’t even know where to begin to try. If they find 80 degrees so vastly uncomfortable, the number of days when they can safely and comfortably begin to experience the outdoors is already severely limited. And if it’s one thing I am convinced of, it’s that if people don’t have a good experience when they do go outside, they will be even less likely to repeat the experience. And since "those folks" vastly outnumber me, "those folks" are the ones whose opinions will matter when decisions about land use and forests are made.

So once again, I am left with questions and no answers. I do what I can, but I feel my voice is as small and as unheard as the sound of wind through the forest at night.


Squirrel said...

I wish I had a good suggestion for getting people outside but I don’t.

Have you noticed how no one ever steps on the real ground? It is possible to go all day long and stay on concrete. Makes me just want to step over those “stay off the grass” signs and get my feet wet from the morning dew.

Watching the pbs Ken Burns series on National Parks made me realize that I have never actually slept out in the open, except for day time naps. I always close myself in a tent. Does anyone sleep in the open by a fire anymore? I have put that on my “to do” list. John Muir is a great inspiration.

Enjoyed this blog and the issues you have raised. Thanks

Carolyn H said...

You're right how easy it is to go all day and never really step on the ground. That's another one I hadn't thought of.

Most of my camping is done with a tent, too. Partly it's privacy, sometimes it's bugs but the end result is the same--lack of contact.

Many times I'm happy I have a roof over my head, but i need to remind myself to enjoy the other option more often.

i've been enjoying the Ken Burns film, too. I hope it helps people experience the outdoors more. I just hope they all don't think they have to go one of those big, lovely national parks to get that kind of experience.

Carolyn H.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

You have hit on what may be the key factor in the future of woods and waters and wild lands—that those who will become the majority, will eventually be those who see no value whatsoever in such places because they have not a single good outdoor experience in their lives to make them think otherwise.

I can see the possibility of our set-aside lands—including the national parks—as one day being dismantled and voted to instead be put to a "greater good" use by the generation which, now a majority, doesn't give a whit for nature and wild places. I'm just about pessimistic enough—all our current "green talk" notwithstanding—to think it is inevitable. I hope I'm wrong.

And I don't know what the answer is, either.

But at least I can reassure Squirrel that some of us do indeed regularly camp out "under the stars" by design and not just because we got lost in the woods for a night. Oddly enough (and mostly as a solution to the bug issue) my favorite time for sleeping tent-less is fall and early winter. The cowboy way is to roll your sleeping bag in a tarp, which acts as both ground cover and protector to your fluffy, warm bag from dew, frost, even a bit of snow. If you've never unrolled your bed in the woods, around a friendly fire on a November night…well, you have a wonderful experience ahead.

Cicero Sings said...

I too worry, especially about the children who will make the future decisions, who have no experience with and in the out of doors. How can they ever have feeling for the things of creation? to care and nurture those things? A dilemma.

We walk so much on earth that when we do a walk in the city ... our legs ache and we get shin splints from walking on all that pavement.

When we were kids, we all went bare foot and prided ourselves on how we could soon run on the rocks ... once we could get rid of those shoes. Now kids have thick soles on their foot bottoms to protect them from one great reflexology foot massage!

Carolyn H said...

Cicero: who was it that said, you only protect the things you love, you only love the things you understand, and you only understand the things you are taught?? (Or something like that).

I worry that kids will never come to love the woods because they never get to experience its joys and wonders. And if they don't love it, they certainly won't be interested in protecting it.

Carolyn H.

Carolyn H said...

Griz: I worry about our set-aside lands all the time. In PA, the latst big threat seems to be the idea of using state forests for marcellus shale drilling. And if our set-aside lands aren't safe, the lands in private hands don't have a prayer.

Carolyn H.

Anonymous said...

Don't give up on your attempts at making a change. We volunteer at a western New York Audubon that sees 15,000 to 20,000 school children a year. We all need to keep on doing what we can to get people into the outdoors, especially the children, they are are hope for the future. Dave

Anonymous said...

Interesting about the folks in the office. I've said a time or two that the veil between inside and outside in the North Country (or in the country in general) is much thinner than in places where folks go from their air conditioned home to car to office. I find also, folks in the country dress for it - we don't crank the heat and wear t-shirts inside. We bundle up - it's all one big room once you open the door anyway.

The cukes were appreciated, but they like broccoli and grass clippings the best! LOL

Cathy said...

This going sound strange, is the wind is breezy above and I'm near the window. I can sense the power it's creating as goes through. Maybe i'm just tune differly