I found it. Shortly after my last experience, I received confirmation* that the spot I found was indeed the spot I was looking for. I’m not exactly sure what I expected would come of my “hike,” but I was pretty sure it would be interesting. At least, I expected it to be natural. This expectation was only barely met by the reality I encountered. This was not mainly because of what I didn’t find, but of what I did. In addition to the expected trees, dirt, and other organic objects, I discovered an unexpected amount of litter, especially bottles. These served as clear reminders that I was not, by any stretch of the phrase, “exploring nature.” The most telling indication arose, however, when I reached the end of the short trail only to be confronted by yet another street. The “nature” I had “discovered” seemed simply to be filler space in the paved and manicured blueprint of the suburbs.
Ironically enough, the closest I came to an “experience” occurred after I had finished my excursion into the unknown. As I made my way back to my familiar street, the sun cast a warm light on the well-kept lawns and houses. This evoked a striking contrast between the place to which I had gone and the place to which I would return. Contrary to my expectation that the more “natural” surroundings would provide a more beautiful experience than mundane urban life, the sterilized setting appeared to me in that moment far more beautiful than the woods I had just explored. I felt somewhat strange about my judgment, valuing man-made structure of the wild beauty of nature. However, the vivid contrast left precious little room for doubt: the “artificial” street was undoubtedly the more beautiful than the “natural” trail.
I’m still not quite sure what to think of this evaluation. Clearly, the relative position of the sun had a great deal to do with my experience. One might argue that I hadn’t really experienced “nature,” or that I was biased toward the familiarity of my street, and they would most likely be right. However, this experience does seem to point to an oft-forgotten truth: human progress is not the ugly sore on the otherwise attractive face of the earth. We build houses and factories and cities for a reason: civilized comforts and securities can drastically improve people’s general quality of life. In addition, man-made things, in addition to merely naturally-occurring ones, can be quite beautiful. “Nature,” while it certainly possesses great beauty, does not corner the market on attractiveness and goodness.