Earth preceded mankind by over four and a half billion years and the first plants started to appear a mere half billion years before humans were believed to exist. Nature, while hard to define, cannot be described as anything but amazing. However, I was not able to understand the full extent of this statement until I took a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park a few years back. Only then was I able to appreciate the outdoors as something other than corn fields and pastures. Trees and plants grew tall and plentiful adding depth and color to the landscape. Mountains stood strong and reached for the clouds, and valleys plummeted deep into the crust, carved by the power of time. Nature is beautiful and awe-inspiring, but its immense power also shows the weakness and youth of mankind.
Initially, out of the tourist trap of a town and away from paved roads, a dirt path winded into the new city: the city of wood. The cellulose skyscrapers rose into the sky and attempted to greet the gods. Sided with rough, brown armor instead of the glass and metal of man, they lined the pathway like guards at the ready. The sun’s light was filtered by the rooftop canopies of green and gold and protected all life which was underneath from the harsh, direct beams of radiation. The ancient towers showed their age through their sheer size; their circumference was often too large to fully wrap my arms around and trying to determine their height would often result in a sore neck. The spires which stand for hundreds or thousands of years and the entirety of the city which has persisted for countless thousands, unbothered by the weathering of time, instilled a feeling of amazement, but it also incited the realization of the insignificance of a human lifespan.
Eventually, the serene silence of the forest was broken by a low, constant noise. The noise amplified as I grew closer and became distinguishable as the sound of crashing water. Finally, reaching the opening, I was first met by the blinding beams of the sun, but then, the sight of the waterfall left me breathless. The water turned opaque as it crashed over and around rocks at high speeds. The powerful stream split and rejoined multiple times until it eventually gathered and plummeted off of a cliff, leaving a cloud of spraying water at the bottom. This encompassed the true personality of Nature; the water possessed the beauty of deliberate design but also had immense power which can prove deadly to man. Despite our abilities to bend it to our will to benefit our society, it has never given up its crown. One wrong step and I could have been swept off my feet and drug down until the forces of life left my body. Nature is impartial.
After another brief walk, this time uphill, I reached another break in the trees, but instead of a waterfall, my eyes were blessed by the most beautiful view I’ve yet to see in my seventeen years of life. At the overlook, I was able to see the mountains on the horizon fighting with the ether for territory. These large citadels of stone watched over the land and radiated the tones of fortitude and strength. Down below, the ground and trees fell away and descended until it reached the bottom of the natural trough where a small stream flowed peacefully and winded from side to side with purpose. The valley was carved into the ground from glaciers and erosion over the span of thousands of human lifetimes. This deep trench in the earth’s crust and the peaks upon the horizon dwarf the constructs of man in both size and age.
When out in Nature, away from society and its framework, you start to appreciate all of its charms, but you also learn to respect and maybe even fear its power. Nature was the ancestor of mankind and will ultimately become its predecessor. These realizations can humble one and make one recognize all of the forces of the universe which are greater than that of humans. In the fight between man’s desire for power and Nature, it is obvious that Nature will always prevail. With this in mind, it’s each individual’s choice on whether they should side with or against Nature. Human life is impermanent, will you use yours to preserve Nature as it was before you, or will you attempt to ignore the magnificence of the universe’s greatest force?