Only a crow heckles me as I trudge through the icy snow covering the North Country Trail. When I left my house minutes earlier, the morning temperature read seven degrees. By now, the sun has risen above the ridge line. While not deep, the snow has drifted in parts and I take care to stay on the trail. Summer taught me a cliff looms. A gurgling brook comes into earshot and I can picture the frigid water tumbling beneath sheets of ice. The stark noises are highlighted amid the quiet of winter. Beauty abounds. I breath the cleansing February air deep and it is in contrast to the heat created by the half-mile walked so far and trapped by outerwear. I stop and admire the sunrise and feel its warmth on my rosy cheeks. Sitting on a nearby rock to watch the sun’s ascent, I smile. Is it odd that I have chosen to spend a morning like this? Alone in harsh temperatures and a rather remote location?
Simply put, the natural world beckoned me. My muscles longed to be exercised and my lungs craved fresh air that the gym couldn’t provide. Before I could think too much about it, I dressed for the cold and left the warmth of my house. An hour or so later, I returned with my spirit restored. A perfect dose of nature to combat cabin fever. Nothing cures like it.
These winter escapades do always make me think. Why bother? Why bother heading out into an environment that causes so much hassle and discomfort this time of year?
Why bother? It is a question that creeps into my mind more and more and it frustrates me. A piece of stationary and a new pen are what I want. The ease of email or instant message makes more sense. Fresh bouquets of flowers brighten the darkest of rooms, dried arrangements need no water and last longer. The flicker of candlelight warms the coldest of nights, a lightbulb is carefree. Trips to new places stimulate my head, a Google search can deliver the images from the comfort of my couch. A meal can be thoughtfully prepared in my own kitchen from locally harvested goods, a bag of mouth-watering food can be had without even leaving the car. Homes built ages ago with a different set of ideals are what I like, a modern house is designed with today’s living style in mind.The list goes on and so I ask the question in my mind once more.
Why? Because I am human. Our world becomes more and more plastic with each day that passes us by. Our homes become filled with items produced with little regard to the humans who make or use these products. Products that carry a heavy emptiness. Products that have no soul.
As the world becomes more mechanical and efficient, our needs are met with fabricated solutions. How do we stay real in the everyday process of things? It is a question we have to solve on our own. Collectively, the answers will lead to a more fulfilled human race.
For me, I will continue trail walking and choosing my real bike over the stationary one. I will always favor fresh flowers and mugs molded by a potter’s loving hands. My small, antiquated, yellow frame house will be painted regularly as it has over the last one hundred sixteen years. I am thankful for this fertile Allegheny River Valley for it provides authentic products and natural experiences and genuine people, all of which nourish my soul.