by Justin Guy
A park in the middle of a city, is not Nature. A paved bicycle trail by the water's edge, is not Nature. A man made arboretum is not Nature; but it's close enough, so we'll take it!
On the suggestion of a friend, we set out together on an adventure into the wilds, a quest for enlightenment, a pilgrimage to all that we have lost: We set out for a walk in the woods!
More than anywhere else, as a boy, I used to play in the forest behind my parents' house. As I grew older I attempted to hang on to some of that healthy behaviour by visiting those woods on foot as much as possible. Now the closest thing to a forest for me, is the line of trees dividing my home from the highway and railroad track beyond. And that's not the saddest part about it either. The most pathetic thing abut it is that I couldn't even tell you for my life, what kind of trees those are.
Well, this past weekend, some friends and I were on a mission to change all that. Armed with a reference guide to trees, our most suitable foot wear and the nearest arboretum in our sights, we set off... In a four wheel drive, gas sucking, exhaust belching Sports Utility Vehicle, but i digress!
To the outskirts of the suburbs we rumbled until we found the long path leading up to the gates of the arboretum. Nature has a gate. We slowly advanced down the path, in the truck of course, because there's no parking even remotely near the private forest. The landscape is setting our mood for the afternoon, beauty, tranquility and the ancient wonder of the overhanging Weeping Willow trees we pass beneath as we go. Weeping Willow trees, I have come to realize are one of only four deciduous (leaves not needles) trees that I am capable of recognizing; the others being Maple, Oak and Birch. I mean, seriously, how can I even call myself a mammal?
At the gate we are informed that access to the arboretum is five bucks a head and that Nature closes a five o'clock.
We unanimously decided to make like a tree - and leave.
It wasn't the money of course, it was the principal. Our party was battered but not beaten. There were groans of cynicism but we still had a recourse. There was apparently a back entrance to the arboretum. Visions of lookout towers, razor wire and guards armed with sniper rifles aside, we decided to follow this lead. To no avail however as there was once again a parking issue. We were burdened by our only means of accessing Nature in the first place. Morale was not so good at this point.
We weighed other options. For five dollars we could go see a matinée about Nature. Or better yet, we could each chip in seventy five cents and rent a documentary about trees. The suggestion was raised that we go to the local Home and Garden Depot to walk around the green house area under the white fluorescent lights with our tree reference guide. Morale went from not so good at this point to downright depressive.
All we wanted to do was take a walk in the woods!
Eventually we decided to push ourselves yet further from the human hive that is the city and make our way out the rural country. We found a spot were we could get out and take our walk. Parking in Nature costs four dollars for the day so we bit the shitsanwhich and paid for our privilege. And a pleasant time we tried to have though at all times we were no more than thirty feet from a paved road. We did make use of the tree reference guide though. I learned what an Elm tree looks like! The ones outside my home that attempt to separate me from the highway are not Elm though. So my quest, I can see, is far from over.
In the glorified rural park that day we sat a talked about how we should make another attempt at Nature sometime. Despite our day's disappointing events we were enthusiastic about this plan. I suppose time will decide for us, if another quest to find Nature in the midst of our concrete jungle will ever drive us again. I'll keep you posted.