Essay, Nature, Time, Writing

“Letting Nature do the Speaking”

Nature has always been my greatest teacher— It has spoken to the surface of my eyes and to the depths of my soul. There have been many times that I have found myself standing at the river’s edge watching the current drift into eternity. I have observed the squirrels rustling around, and have watched the leaves fall to the ground as the seasons begin to change once again. Being in solitude has a healed my heart and my mind and allows me to notice the stillness in the moment, as all creations perform in perfect harmony with each other. Nature has given me an unforgettable teaching; it has changed my perspective on how I perceive time.

Not long ago, I found a place to sit along the bank of the river. There was a small canal connecting to the river, and where I sat the river opened up to one of the widest sections on the entire river. Facing downstream at the confluence of the canal and river, I took a few moments to notice my breath with a deep inhalation followed by a deep exhalation. Each breath allowed me to become more still and more aware of my surroundings. I noticed the ducks going upon their morning business. They were swiftly moving back and forth in the current, feeding on the algae that the river carried them. I observed the trout breaking the surface of the water to feed on adult caddis flies fluttering across the surface of the water. Everything appeared to be happening so naturally and in perfect time without any force upon it. But then there were the humans and civilization frantically moving in order to get where they needed to go. I started to wonder why everybody is in such a hurry, almost as if time is running out.

It’s a race, life is a race, and we must hurry to get things done before it’s too late— before time runs out. Time controls our lives. We have to get to work, school, meetings, and everything else on time or else there is a consequence. All my life, time has been a burden, a restriction, something that forces me to do the things that I don’t want to do and something that doesn’t allow me to do things I enjoy. Why would I think about time any differently? Growing up I have seen time unfold. I have talked to elderly people and heard them say, “where did time go?” like time is running out or something. I have contemplated what exactly measures time. Is it the beat of our heart, the breath of our lungs, the rotation of the earth, or the clock on the wall?

My experience in nature instilled a seed inside of me and I have allowed my understanding of it to expand and grow. I have started to view time as an eternal gift without a beginning or an end. Instead of viewing time as an arrow shooting through the sky never to be seen again, I think of it more as a boomerang that will always return. The days repeat themselves in a cyclical manner. The sun will rise telling us when to begin our day, and then it will become dark when it is time to fall asleep. The seasons do the same thing. Beautiful colors with show up on the trees and the weather will become cold causing the leaves to fall, bringing on winter. Then we will feel the first glimpse of warmer weather as the flowers start to blossom, bring us that much closer to summer. Why would human life be any different?

Viewing time in this manner contradicts the way time is viewed in Western cultures. In America, time is viewed as the arrow shooting through the sky, which we will never be able to catch. This means that we view time as a precious commodity, in which should not be wasted because it is always ticking down and we will never get it back. We try to use our time so efficiently that our schedules become jam packed, that we rush from place to place, and never take time to notice the stillness in the moment. Our lives revolve around a timeframe; it makes sense because we are able to run our lives in an efficient, orderly, and precise fashion— especially when pertaining to business. When we think of time in a linear manner, we tend to put more focus on the future and less focus on the present moment. It seems like we are always waiting for that one moment like love or retirement to make us happy, rather than being content with the present moment. It feels like an unnatural way to live. We are trying to control something that we cannot control.

Why allow such a beautiful gift to turn into such a burden? Time is the womb of all creation— from which we all came from and which we will all return to. Rather than rushing to the end of the tunnel to find the light, nature has taught me to embrace moments of darkness and seek for the teaching within it.