I don’t think my relationship to my place has changed at all. The only difference I’ve encountered is that I know what my backyard looks like now, and I can imagine different sections of it without having to double check. But it’s still foreign. I didn’t achieve that level of intimacy I was looking for in the beginning of the semester. I couldn’t feel the same sense of security I get in my room. But I’ve learned how much more difficult it is to go out into nature than it was just a year ago. Before, I could walk out my front door, and I would have to physically leave my driveway in order to leave the expanse of nature. Even then, with the small town of Prospect located in the middle of the countryside, most of the lawns opened into fields no matter how close or distant the houses were from each other—the backyards all connected into the fields. Now, I step out my front door and the only nature I experience is the sky, the weather, and the front yard.
Yesterday, I opened my window and crawled onto the slanted roof, leaving my temporary screen wedged between the window and the frame so I could easily open the window again from the outside. I waited until the wind had died down enough so I wouldn’t feel that I was about to fly off. The grass still had spots of brown and dingy green, but it was still fresher than it was because of the rain we’ve gotten over the past few days. As I surveyed the lawns, I was reminded of how green the grass is in Ireland. Western PA looks like Ireland after it rains, because the daily rains are the main reason Ireland is so green.
Standing on the roof seems appropriate for me now. I certainly don’t consider myself above nature, but detached from the nature in New Castle. Standing on the roof, I’m still in nature, still part of it, but separated. The barking of the same hidden big dog still reaches me the same as if I stood on the grass. The same birds flit by, singing. When I turn around, Ember is staring at me from inside.
“Mom? Mom! What are you doing out there! Why are you out there! You’re outside! I don’t like you outside! I can’t get to you! I want to be outside, can I be outside, you’re where the birds are, Mom, Mom!” she seems to say in just a look, her wide eyes, her desperate meow as she paws without claws at the glass.
And I find it interesting that the nature outside doesn’t compel me to visit it nearly as much as my bundle of nature inside.
Behind her sits my computer desk, atop of which is printouts of PDFs and the nature anthology we read for class. Some of what I’ve read for this course I encountered in my previous Literature of the Environment class from SRU. But in that class, we concentrated on the reverence of nature. In this class, we shifted back and forth between reverence, irony, annoyance, subtle pleas, and personal experiences. The range in this class has been much broader and served to reinforce my appreciation for it. Some of the assignments were a bit dull or dry, but others were highly entertaining or profound. I think that if ever I choose to approach nature writing in my own works, I’ll probably include some bits of research or information, in order to not make the piece just about me. I think that’s the point of nature writing: not just to say, “Look at what I think, look at what I’ve experienced,” but to inform as well in such a way that, sometimes, the readers may not be aware that they’re learning anything at all.