Resolve to Spend More Time in Nature
It might seem strange that a park ranger is making a New Year’s resolution to spend more time in nature, but my job involves a lot more sitting in my office than you might think. Yes, I do have an office of my own—but my tiny space was originally a storage closet, and doesn’t have any windows. The beautiful Badlands are right outside, but I can’t see them.
The isolating effect of working in my closet is stronger in winter, of course, when I go to work just after sunrise and return home after the sun has already gone down. I get very little natural light. Yesterday, it started snowing, and I didn’t know about it for three hours. If a fireball were headed for the Earth and everyone looked to the skies, screaming in terror, I would still be tapping away at my workstation, oblivious to my impending doom.
So let’s run with this. Let’s say that an enormous meteor is heading right at us, expected to crash into the planet in just three months, near the beginning of March. I actually hear about it, despite spending too much time in my closet, because the good folks at the Daily Post warn the world. There’s a 2.7% chance that we’ll all make it through alive. It’s New Year’s, so it seems like a good time to think about how I want to live out what may be my last days before the Doompocalypse. There are three things I want to make sure I do:
- Spend at least one hour a day outside, enjoying nature.
This may mean careful nature observation, sitting and watching wildlife behavior or sketching plants, or it may mean more active outdoor pursuits like hiking or running. Either way, I mean to enjoy the sun, and the fresh air, and the whipping prairie winds, and the stinging blizzards. I want to take in the improbable beauty of a black-billed magpie, the muscular grace of a bighorn sheep. I want to find coyote tracks in snow, following them and puzzling out the mysteries of one wild canid life. I want to explore the nooks and crannies of the badlands formations, scrambling up steep slopes on a deer trail and peering down into eroded crevices.
- Share the wondrous beauty of the natural world with others.
It might seem strange, but I’d keep going to my job. I do the work that I do because I believe it’s important. I believe that this world is a precious place, and we all too often fail to accord it the respect that it deserves; I believe that too many of us are oblivious to the ongoing miracle that is evolution, operating all around us, all the time. As a park ranger, I’m in the rare position of helping people to see things in nature that they hadn’t seen before. Whether that’s schoolkids on a field trip or retirees traveling to the national parks for the first time in their lives, it’s consistently rewarding—and I’m always learning from others’ fresh eyes, as well.
- Practice kindness.
Towards others, towards all the other living things with which we share this one, wonderful world, and towards myself.