James Pinsky: Nature makes me happy
Nature makes me happy. It always has, and it always will.
As a child my fondest memories, outside of my first sweet kiss from a brown-eyed girl named Amy, are all from the woods.
These memories, many dusty with cobwebs and others still wet with my mind’s fresh paint, are responsible for more smiles on my face than every ice cream cone I’ve ever eaten.
As a boy some of my strongest memories with nature involve the woods behind my house at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Those tall, swaying pine trees served as cover and concealment for years of service in the immensely popular game of yesteryear, “army.” Being the son of a U.S. Army Green Beret, you better believe my weekends were purposely filled with a child-army issued set of camouflaged fatigues, plastic M16, canteen full of orange Kool-Aid and the coveted Green Beret my father gave to me. Those sandy, pine straw covered fields became my Anzio, my Normandy Beach, my Saigon, and Iwo Jima. The tree bark, the pine cones, the sticky, smelly sap and those damned Carolina fire ants all played roles in giving me a childhood no movie, video game or even book could duplicate today. Nature was my imagination’s canvas, and like any good mother, nature always believed in my dreams.
You see, nature has always made me happy because nature has always been my very best friend.
On too many occasions I care to admit, many an oak tree, squirrel or fine-feathered friend has lent me an ear to listen to my stories of heartache, failure, fear and folly. To this day, not once, has nature ever shared my secrets, broken my heart or mocked my tears. Now that’s a good friend. Nature has born the brunt of hearing about my finest days as well. It was the woods near my parents’ house in Hope Mills, North Carolina that heard about my heart’s first venture into true love as I shared my soul’s wonderment of puppy passion with the fish in the pond, the frogs on the shore and the birds near the park. As a boy, love wasn’t something I bragged about to my human friends, but I certainly whispered it to bestie, nature.
My first love wasn’t nature’s only secret. To this day, one of my greatest memories of my life was a Saturday morning I spent as a boy with my now long-gone beagle named Rufus who tagged along with me one morning to deer hunt. On our drive to the woods, I bragged about my cunning ability to find a massive buck, ambush him and parade my success all the way back to Hope Mills. Like any good dog, he nodded in agreement knowing I was, at least in his eyes, the greatest hunter who ever lived, and as any man knows, if your dog believes in you then nothing else mattered. But, my great memory that day wasn’t about the massive buck I promised Rufus. The truth, of course, was both dog and boy stampeded through the woods like, well a pack of beagles, and never mustered enough stealth to ambush a tree stump, moreover a savvy woodland beast. Nope, that day’s great memory was about Rufus and me, a tall pine tree and a stick of beef jerky we shared – along with a lazy Saturday morning nap.
Not too long ago, the woods near the Town of Warrenton served as the scenery to another great memory. I’ve talked about it a time or two in my column here. It was the day I saw two squirrels, one having the worst day of his life, and another having the best, outwit a hawk. The first squirrel was one beak bite away from being hawk poop when what surely was his very best friend in the world ran squirrel teeth first into that hawk, knocking him on his tail feathers and freeing his friend. That simple and remarkable act convinced me for life that humans aren’t this world’s only heroes – or maybe even its best.
Nature has and always will make me happy, and I think it’s this simple fact that motivates me to campaign for the woods as not just my best friend but yours as well. If you’ve never met nature, I recommend you venture outside and say hello. If you have news, good or bad, feel free to share it with a bubbling brook, leafy oak tree or brown-eyed deer. It may not seem like nature is listening when you do, but just wait. You’ll feel better when you’re done because nature is your best friend, too.
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James Pinsky is the Education and Information Coordinator for the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District. Contact him at 540.465.2424, ext. 104, or firstname.lastname@example.org.