I realized as I sat down to work today that I miss two things: the circle/grove (but not the high rituals, if that makes sense), and the old-growth forest I used to basically live within when I was not swimming in the nearby lake as a child/early teen — at least until it was clear-cut and replaced with a shit-tonne of more-profitable, quick-growing, monospecies pine trees.
I miss the easy camaraderie of the circle and the grove I belonged to. Strangers were friends you had yet to meet. There were few value judgments and you could be you without wondering to much what might be said of you after you left the room. We were all rebels and outcasts, each group was an island for misfit toys, and so, unless you did something wholly egregious, you were accepted — superficial flaws and all. And it was enlightening, to sit there with the group in either celebration or just casual socialization, chatting up about things both mundane and esoteric. You could have a counterpoint and people would respect it. If you were wrong, they’d patiently try to explain the logical fallacy and, if you were right, they’d give you a nod and adjust their views to fit your contribution.
Looking from the outside these days, I don’t know that it works that way anymore. As more people have gotten involved, it seems like the same kinds of schisms we see in everyday life seem to have infiltrated the community, which makes me sad to some degree. I don’t know if you can ever go back to what it was 35 years ago — as welcoming and open-minded as it was back then. There were divisions, to be sure — but those dissolved when easily for the sake of common cause.
As far as the forest goes — I can’t say why that came to mind aside from the fact that I miss it. I’m not sure where I could find something so primitive that was an easy day jaunt, especially as people try to escape the confines of coronavirus and have overrun nature to the point that it feels like there are very few places left that they haven’t turned into a tourist destination. It used to be that I could get my fix down by the Minnesota or Mississippi Rivers, or even at bare-ass beach at Cedar Lake on a weekday (when people are decidedly clothed, if present at all), but my recent forays into similar areas have shown an insane amount of uptick in traffic — the kind where people need to be typical Americans and turn the volume to “eleven”, bring their shouting kids, and barking dogs and there is very little nature sticking around for all the cacophony of din. They are treating the nature areas as their new shopping malls, and it’s putting a lot of stress on those areas. It is not fun or relaxing at all to visit under those conditions. It grates, honestly, with the subwoofers and glass-pack mufflers, the whoops and hollers, the mountain bikers ignoring the “no off-road biking” signs… So I avoid it. People are nature, too, but they often make more than their fair share of “nature” and crowd out the rest.
Besides, it misses the whole “primitive” to follow established trails meant to keep disrespectful visitors from completely disrupting the ecosystem. I want to be somewhere where I have to be careful not to disturb a wayward sapling and snap an exuberant shoot of growth leaning over the trail, or dodge an elaborate web, or step over a mostly-rotten deadfall laying over the trail. To catch the flash of a white tail, or rouse a slumbering grouse when you step too close, or to hear the skittering of something that you can’t identify as it scampers over the dead leaves in the undergrowth. One sound I miss hearing perhaps the most is the lonely call of a loon filtering through the tree branches as I weaved my way along the narrow trails, leaving little more that boot-prints to be erased by rain or a deer hoof in my wake.