Outside the Natural World
The wind sounded like water; it rushed through trees, the rustling leaves sounding like waves, like an ocean. I kept reminding myself that the surrounding rocks were created millions of years ago – that the colors of the sediment convey time. I took a nap in my car. Saw a rainbow almost form a complete circle. Noticed a mosquito bite on the thick of my palm.
We, as travelers and sightseers, have expectations of the natural world. We seek out the promised aura of a place; we search for the sublime. We hope to be humbled by our insignificance and harmonize with that which overwhelms us. To allow our emotions to transcend our daily agendas, our rational thought, our unread emails.
What counts as the “natural world” becomes smaller and smaller. Human presence has come to dominate our environment to such an extent that it can now be recognized as a distinct layer of the geological record. Along with petrified wood or dinosaur bones, our basketball hoops, ballpoint pens, rain jackets, and couches will also fossilize – our contributions preserved.
And yet, we expect the natural world to exist outside ourselves, to prove its separateness, within a frame we can understand and within an itinerary we can accomplish.
I drove out to the vista point. It was cold and overcast. I took a picture of a man in a red jacket against the gray blue fog. One of the largest freshwater lakes in the country lay behind him. We couldn’t see it, but we sat there anyway, waiting for a great unveiling.
– Courtney Allen, 2021