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.