As a New Hampshire resident who grew up for the vast majority of his upbringing within a moderately-sized suburb in the southern seacoast region of the state, I must confess that my outlook concerning nature has always been one of a certain lazy indifference, at least by New Hampshire standards. What with the abundance of wilderness found within my state as well as many others in New England, I’m well-aware of the appreciation which is expected to be fostered of the natural beauty that’s native to New Hampshire if I’m to consider myself an individual who as many say ‘knows or appreciates his roots’ to any degree. That being said, as a child who didn’t particularly excel in athletics or outdoor activities, I wouldn’t call the younger versions of myself an avid nature enthusiast by any means. In fact, to the contrary I’d have rather spent my free time inside, sitting contemplatively at the piano or reading a book by the fireplace. However, as a very young child I can remember something very specific, a notion which I can remember as if it were yesterday, which directly parallels the means by which I’ve learned to understand the natural world we all inhabit today.
I can remember always looking particularly fondly upon overcast days, especially when it rained. Like many children, I was very vocal of my inward thoughts, regardless of the consequences which they might bring forth, and so I was at first, utterly incredulous at the idea of others widespread distaste for the very type of weather I enjoyed, upon expounding my own favorability towards it. I’ve maintained this affinity for gray skies as I’ve matured, and although it’s taken me a while, I believe the reason why I prefer this kind of weather is directly related to the way in which I’ve learned to consider the natural world.
As a child, we’re almost immediately inundated with the pre-planned routine of society (although granted, mostly through our parents agency more directly than our own) and as such, become very attuned to when things don’t go as planned, even if we remain within the same environment with which we’re usually accustomed to. I recall one particular morning in kindergarten, having just arrived in the classroom, only this time I’d noticed that something was different. Not off, not unsettling; something quite positive actually, and evidently apparent enough for my young mind to register, additionally. I can remember noticing the particular hue of the lighting in the classroom, although at the time I was far from being able to place my finger one the exact difference I’d become aware of. It took several years before I realized that this was the first time I’d been at school while it was raining. And I can recall eventually working out this preference for rain as well as dark, looming clouds outside the window as opposed to the brightness of the sun and the electric blue of the cloudless sky as being rooted in those specific qualities which only young children are privy to; with their naturally exploratory minds and their untarnished, fresh view of this vibrant experience we call life. I’d noticed that somehow, on some subconscious level, I’d been unknowingly comparing how the light emitted from inside the classroom had felt to me when compared to a bright sky, versus a dark one. And what I’d gathered, again without realizing it, is that by itself, when left with no comparison, there’s nothing inherently wrong with bright skies. However, when one’s introduced to the possibility of their alternative; the fluorescent devices which cast themselves within the classroom are painted in an entirely different light (no pun intended). Put simply; by contrast, the darkness from the outside makes the inside seem brighter than on days when the man-made lights of the school building had to compete with the unequivocal luminescence of the sun. I’m not at all focusing on the difference of my opinion in regards to most others where the consideration of rainy days is concerned; I’m instead pointing to the contrast which one is forced to take into consideration and consequentially, look upon as positively or negatively as one desires, depending upon their own individual perspective. It’s this very idea of contrast with regards to what one observes which initially taught me that optimism as well as pessimism are both choices which one can bring to any event in their life. It’s this very same idea which with which I’ve learned to understand the relationship between humanity and the more than human world, as well.
The means by which I’ve always gone about considering the environment has been fundamentally improved upon by the topics, viewpoints, and ideas discussed, dissected & digested within the course titled ‘Writing in an Endangered World’ taught by prof. Mark Long.
Every text discussed within this class at the very least helped to further widen what I understood as my general categorization of just exactly what ‘environmentalism’ as a movement was, who it was primarily composed of, as well as how I understood myself and my species in the context of this world which was, at its core, so much more than just human. The idea of contrast which I’ve mentioned above is directly related to this recognition of humanity within nature’s context. Just as I was unable to grasp my initial affinity for gray skies before they revealed themselves as a point of reference for me; I was equally unable to grasp humanity’s place among the more than human world; without first being able to recognize the world we inhabit as exactly that: more than human.
Regardless of whether your perspective is as far away as mine initially was or to any degree closer; this characterization of the world as more than human is imperative, should one desire to ascertain all of that which this collection of essays has to offer.