by MARY ELIZABETH RAINES
Last night I awoke in the middle of the night and went to my window. A gentle late-summer rain was falling in the darkness.
I live on a lake where, to the chagrin of some of my neighbors, I have restored both the natural shoreline and a small patch of woods, and have allowed much of the property to be returned to the wild. My half-acre is thick and lush with life.
The sounds and smells of the rain outside my window were ancient, familiar and magical. I heard plops of water, some expansive, some subtle and skittering, as the raindrops fell on all sizes of leaves and foliage. The scent of the damp woods was startling in its intensity. I realized that I hadn’t smelled woods like that since camping in a tent decades ago as a child with my family.
It was profoundly healing.
Eventually, however, I chose to return to my bed. Despite an open window, the scents and sounds disappeared, swallowed by the civilized atmosphere of my bedroom.
As I lay in my bed, I was struck with the kind of clarity that only comes in the middle of the night. I realized how profoundly ridiculous our human lives have become and how miserable we have made ourselves in our attempts to better our lives. We have managed to become the only species of animal that cannot survive if we are turned out naked, on our own, in the wild. Even the lowliest insects and the smallest minnows retain the gift for figuring out basics like what to eat and where to go, a gift that we have lost.
There was an indescribable comfort in the sounds that I heard and the air that I breathed as I stood at my open window. This soothing balm was better than any pill, any drug, any escape. And I saw clearly that the natural world, which was originally intended as our home, cannot help but bring forth joy and comfort and magic of more depth and in more abundance than we can imagine. We’ve forsaken this joy and comfort and magic. We have replaced them with concrete and loudspeakers and computer screens.
In my moment of clarity, I saw that we had originally been created (or evolved, or what-have-you) to go to sleep to the hum of crickets and awaken to the songs of birds, not to the roars of vehicles rumbling on pavement and the inescapable merciless screams of digital alarm clocks. We were created to breathe in layer upon delicious layer of scents of earth and flower and rock and water and other creatures as they come and go, not the throttling chemicals of air “fresheners” and fuel exhaust and fabric softeners.
We rush to civilize the few remaining primitive tribes who live close to nature, plying them with polyester shirts and plastic bags, while ignoring the fact that, by and large, their lives are happier than ours. We smirk at their nakedness. Meanwhile, our most important men tie cloth nooses around their necks, and our most desirable women encase the flesh of their breasts and legs in unnatural fabrics while balancing on precariously awkward footgear, and not only do we take ourselves seriously costumed like this; in such absurd garb, we decide the very fate of our planet. Smug and patronizing, we grimly carve our way through the blasphemous stink and wretched shrieks of the inescapable trap we have built of our lives.
And we wonder why we are unhappy.
The best therapy on the planet does not involve blotting out one’s emotions by taking a pill or buying more stuff or droning on and on about one’s problems to someone who has been paid to pretend to care. No, the best therapy on the planet is to listen to a cricket.
(c) 2011, M. E. Raines
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