Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I Hate Nature
The heading of this post is a response to both my hometown of Portland as well as old queries from ex-coworkers at Megalithic Shoe Co., Inc., who, when they discovered I had traveled to India on multiple occasions for reasons relating to yoga, suddenly assumed I preferred patchouli, Phish, and seventies-era VW buses or Toyota Priuses.

"Nature" includes forests, mountains, the woods, creeks, trees in general, babbling brooks, leaves, bushes. Flowers are okay as long as they're safely in a vase.

It's not so much nature itself that I hate --- and here I refuse to anthropomorphize the savage and meaningless and insistent ruthless urge for life to propagate --- it's the recreational activities that surround it: hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, bird-watching, tracking. Pretty much anything involving brown boots, a puffy jacket, and a stout oak staff for support.

All good hatred, if pure and true, stems from deep fear. As an impressionable young lad, I happened to see about 20 minutes of Super-8 film footage taken on a tourist safari in Africa in the seventies. The clip depicted some hapless tourist opting out of the gene pool by leaping from his Volkswagen Thing to shoot a closer photo of a pride of lions.

The lions --- being fucking lions! --- in turn promptly leapt on the guy and ate him.

They didn't kill him and then eat him. They ate him, starting with his stomach, in a process that didn't end before the camera ran out of film. A lion sat on the man's chest and occasionally took bites from his stomach and chest; the man twitched and kicked and ineffectually swatted at the big cat.

Despite the bars, fences and cages, a shoulder-high tiger switching out of the darkness at the Mysore zoo is enough to inspire a change of underwear. And don't get me started on my fear of bears.

I suppose, then, that it's fitting I live in Portland, Oregon, which is essentially a city built among a vast forest of Ents, that is, malign trees, trees that insist on crowding into and over every street and house, building and sidewalk, casting black, pre-Cambrian shadows that whisper of a more primordial darkness. The city is also just a few miles from mountains, streams, beaches, trails, hills, valleys --- in other words, you can't throw a non-biodegradable styrofoam coffee-cup anywhere without hitting the Great Fucking Outdoors.

I prefer urban nature --- the green and yellow grown-over vacant lot en route to the coffee shop; the yellow flashbulbs of dandelions thrust between the cracks in pavement; the red flowers in a white bucket being sold on the freeway on-ramp; a rectilinear, sculpted and tamed green shrub leaning well away from the sidewalk. Acceptable wildlife include squirrels, pigeons, cats, mid-sized dogs, and any other animal I at least double in body-weight and which, were it to suddenly go rabid, I could reliably stomp to death.

Acceptable nature activities include those that do not necessitate my participation with nature; rather, the event or activity may take place in nature, but it must reduce existence to the cotton-haze of exertion and effort until the universe has dwindled to the pure pinprick of single-pointed consciousness.

Such activities may include road cycling, trail-running, rock-climbing, cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, or an ounce of psilocybin.

It's at this point in the argument that my wife tells me to go live in an ashram.