THE NATURE — Mosquito-bitten and sunburnt, Alec Meyer, had no choice but to reflect on the fact that his quest to appreciate nature was not going so well on his hike last Saturday morning.
“I’ve been hiking for three miles now, and I’m not too happy about it,” said Meyer, a 26 year old public relations specialist who was visibly miffed as he scratched the bug bites that lined his legs. “I’m thirsty, my feet hurt, and the sun is probably giving me skin cancer as we speak. And I got up at six in the morning on my day off for this.”
The impulse for his outing in nature began when Meyer felt the wonder of his youth dissolve into the mind-deadening inevitability of adulthood. That’s when he promised himself he would get back to his roots by spending more time in outdoors in an effort to feel as though he had a pulse, even if just for a few hours.
“I don’t know what happened to me,” Meyer declared. “I just started being a huge wiener about everything, you know? Like cowering in the rain and never leaving my house unless I made plans three months in advance. That’s when I realized I needed to reinvent myself and go out and become one with nature without worrying about getting dirty like I used to when I was a kid.”
Once summer came around, he told himself, he would embark upon his first hike in over a decade — an endeavor he finally undertook after rescheduling no less than nine times.
“It’s just so hard for me to make time for these kinds of things,” he admitted. “I mean, I work all the time, and when I’m not doing that I’m running errands or meeting social and familial obligations. Plus, I don’t like driving very far. Oh, and I wasn’t sure where I put my hiking shoes, or even if I had hiking shoes to begin with.”
After finally setting aside enough of his regular commitments to carve out four hours of pure free time, he drove to a popular hiking destination near Castle Rock where he planned to solve all of his existential worries in a single morning by walking on a dirt trail next to a bunch of grass and trees and shit.
“So I drive almost an hour to get here, right?” asked Meyer rhetorically. “And almost immediately I realize I forgot my sunscreen and hiking shoes that I just bought last week. So I’m walking in my Vans and just getting scorched by the sun while all these mosquitoes are doing blood keg stands on my skin. And only at that moment did I realize how naive I was to think this would have any beneficial effect on me in any way whatsoever.”
Upon realizing the futility in his quest, he immediately turned around and headed back to his car. On the return trip, Meyer had no choice but to reckon with the creeping certainty that the wonder of his youth was no match for the realities of his adult life.
“I think I put too much pressure on nature to give me any kind of fresh perspective,” he said. “I suppose the idea of flora and fauna gives me something to fantasize about while I’m at work, so I don’t have to think about how much I hate work. And of course my fantasy is so much better than the way nature really is — a way to get skin cancer and Lyme disease as you battle throngs of weekend hikers who litter in front of you.”