I am typing from a sunny deck that overlooks a yard full of green grass, yellow and red trees, and brownish-gray squirrels. The sun, sliding westward, is warming up the left side of my face. The finches, flitting nervously, aren’t disturbed enough by my presence to fly away from the bird feeder that hangs in the closest tree.
A hawk circles above in a cloudless blue sky. A tiny spider just ziplined down a single strand of silk from the deck railing to the ground. A family of crickets works the wrong shift, but their raspy drone is still soothing in the daylight.
Honestly, I’m surprised that I can see my computer screen in this kind of light.
And I am thankful for it.
I’ve always tried to keep a wall of separation erected between nature and technology. On my most recent camping trip, I left my iPod at home and my cell phone in the car. I made my fiance leave his new iPad at home. (“No, we’re NOT going to want to watch an Angry Video Game Nerd episode by the fire,” I told him. Also, let it be publicly known that I started the fire on that camping trip with a single match and without using gasoline to cheat, thank-you-very-much.)
When I photograph nature, I still enjoy using my old manual SLR camera. Film helps me to limit the number of photos I take. And when I limit the number of photos I take, I put quite a bit more thought and planning into each exposure. (With digital, I just get clickhappy and end up with hundreds of poorly-composed, half-blurry photos.)
And if I go for a walk or a hike, I rarely even bring my iPod. Music is a wonderful thing, of course, but it sometimes veils the present moment. Listening to the varied sounds around me, from leaves crunching to birds chirping to breezes blowing, immerses myself in the present in the same way that focusing on your breath or heartbeat might. And if you’re like me, and if you get jumpy or concerned when focusing on your heartbeat or your breath, then nature is a soothing alternative for mindfulness meditation.
But today, I’m letting technology and nature flirt a little bit. I’m stopping after each sentence to gather my thoughts and watch the blue jays peck at the ground over near the pine trees. I’m blurring my eyes after each paragraph so I can focus on the distant trees and feel the sun before it slips out of sight. I’m even stopping mid-sentence, occasionally, to watch the birds at the feeder. The tally so far: three purple finches, two house finches, and a few generic sparrows.
My Friday is a bit richer for having written this blog entry outside. I had two alternatives: I could have written inside my apartment, probably on a bar stool at the kitchen counter, listening to music and staring in the general direction of the stove. Or, I could have gone to the local coffee shop — a cold, brick-walled interior space in a concrete building. I mean, it’s even called Alabaster. Their tea is delicious, but even a warm cup of green tea doesn’t compare with a yard full of green grass. Not today, at least. Not on a day with so much sun and warmth and peacefulness.
Technology doesn’t always have to corrupt nature, I now realize. Today, it brought me to nature. And isn’t that better than spending this fleeting autumn time at my kitchen counter and staring at the stove?
Like shooting photos with a film camera, my writing today was more thoughtful and deliberate. The sun provided some energy, the grass provided some inspiration, and…whoa! A squirrel just walked up to my feet. Like, right now. As I type these very words. He’s calmly wandering around my deck now. I am sitting very still and he probably doesn’t even realize that I’m here.
Okay, let’s try again: the sun provided some energy, the grass provided some inspiration, and the squirrel provided some (not unwelcome) distraction.
I wish you all a calm, sunny, nature-filled weekend. With or without technology. (And if you do let technology and nature mingle a little bit this weekend in a way that brings you to nature, and not away from it, let me know in the comments!)