Nature reveals God’s presence: it makes for a cliché statement, but I believe that it is fitting for the profoundly humbling experience that nature can impose upon the self. When I mention God, I do not mean it in the Christian, Judaic, or Islamic sense. Rather I am using God as a representation of spirituality.
The human experience — on a singular level: for all of its love, relationships, eminences, defeats, privations, and tragedies — tends to become an insular one. In an attempt to create the greatest life for ourselves, we can become distressed over the attainment of our own self-possession while equally neglecting the comfort of others.
What this lifestyle ultimately leads to is one in which the central character becomes burdened by the pains of trivialities and distraught by stasis. When we are unable to accept that these commonalities are simply a part of life, anxiety and depression follows. Yet there is a way to escape this downward-spiral of thinking. To overcome this state of worry and wrought, one must have their insignificance — on the grand-scale (think in the cosmic sense) — put into perspective. Submerging yourself into nature is just one of these methods to achieve this.
If you have ever stood at the foot of a trail, ready to scale the face of a mountain, or hung your chest over the edge of a cliff, staring into the imminent death that plunging would bring, then you understand this feeling. The immensity of either sight proves to be overwhelming: your chest becomes stricken, the ribs transforming into a steel cage; your head begins to ache, ballooning and beating like the heart; and your extremities begin to numb, picked with pins as all feeling escapes you.
It is in that moment — whether for the monumental natural architecture or for the danger imposed with traversing it — that the façade of self-importance begins to crumble. While entering the likes of Arches National Park, it is near impossible to stand beneath these natural rock formations and still be worried by the generalities of life.
Life, as you have known it, is suddenly on pause. Your life transitions into snapshots as you wander the land in awe, feigning focus on putting one foot in front of the other while your eyes are bound to the monoliths that breach the sky.
Perhaps you begin to thinking to yourself, “Something must have put these here. Some one.” If you so follow a religion, then you have irrefutable evidence of their divinity as etched in clay and stone. If not — whether a spiritual being or someone who believes in nothing — you will still become bested by nature: it is difficult not to feel small when walking through the arches (literally passing through history) or standing next to rocks that have managed to stay balanced on their pedestals for centuries.
In the end, it won’t be surprising if you have your breath taken away. It wouldn’t come as a surprise if you were equally moved to tears. I was. I had wanted to travel to Arches National Park for many years, and living on the East Coast of US made that near impossible. It proved itself not only as a beautiful experience of nature, but as an accomplishment — finally having visited which I had long awaited.
I have spent many years on trails, in the mountains, and by the sea. I cherish the simplistic adventure that entails visiting the natural world. It’s part of the reason why I appreciate nature so much more than I do cities. Rather than belaboring yourself with the consumption of merchandise and surrounding yourself with the lot of others, you are allowed to be truly alone, encountering the parts of our world either largely untouched or unknown.
Rather than imparting loneliness, nature imbues you with a sense of familiarity. Stripped of its trivialities, life becomes simpler, returning you to an age in which you’ve never known — one in which the land carries the spirit of the human experience. Among these preserved monuments — standing among the faint reverberations of Numu words once spoken and traversing the grounds in which the Ute and Paiute once lived — you feel as if you finally belong.
If you enjoyed this post, feel free to follow my blog to read soon-to-come blogs chronicling my U.S. cross country trip.
You can read my previous cross country posts here: