I have to face it. I have NDD. That would be Nature Deficit Disorder. Although I jest, I have seriously not spent any time in the real outdoors in several years. I go for walks here in the suburbs, I do some gardening, I mow the lawn and I shovel snow, but I am not out in untended nature, ever.
My parents did not raise me this way. Their house is surrounded on all sides by forest and a lake. As a kid, I spent endless time exploring and learning about the woods and the lake. So you’d think I’d miss it, but I don’t. I hardly think about it at all.
Part of the problem is that forest and lakes are everywhere here. My city has 23 lakes. There are two beautiful sandy ocean beaches just 10 and 15 km from my house. I literally just have to cross the street to walk into a forest that stretches unbroken for 5 km. So the first reason I have NDD is because I take these things completely for granted, and therefore devalue them.
The next reason is because I am an intellectual. Again, I joke, but what that means to me is: my life is really a life of the mind, and about ideas and conversations and work and culture. It is not about how the wind feels on my face or how much peace I can find on a rocky outcrop. That just isn’t me.
And finally, I am too distracted. Not too busy – that would be a lie. I just prefer doing other things. Particularly if they involve looking at pages or screens! Reading, browsing, blogging, watching movies…again, it’s that “life of the mind” thing.
I’m not even going to tell you that when I unplug from technology and refresh myself in the wilderness, I feel much better. How would I know? Hasn’t happened! Usually when I am “offline,” I am cooking or cleaning or talking or going to a museum or shopping. And still not spending time outdoors!
I am starting to feel some tiny rumblings, though. As Madeline would say, “Something is not right.” I remember how it feels to walk into the woods and see a lady’s slipper, or find a pitcher plant in a bog, or even marvel at lichens on a rock. I am starting to miss the strenuous feeling of going on a hike and arriving somewhere that is inaccessible by car. Even the waterfall that is just a 15-minute walk upriver from my brother’s house.
I am not going to set myself a bunch of goals or challenges about this. I am just going to mull it over. Because I think a change is due.
Please note only the beach and waterfall photos are my own.
The term Nature Deficit Disorder comes from Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods.