Friday, April 22, 2016

Travels, nature and breweries (4/9 through 4/16/2016)

My wife and I have been away on vacation for a week.  It was wonderful, away from work, away from the regular travel I do for work, just away from all the regular crap I do all the time.  We spent time in New England; we visited our daughter who goes to graduate school in Boston (Harvard) and (as we describe it to friends) we stole her car for a few days and drove to Maine.  This entry: however, is more about a few experiences I had and how they relate to some of the subjects that are a common thread in this blog.

As any good naturalist or any good Unitarian Universalist that visit New England should do (it helps I am both), I visited WaldenPond.  It is somewhat of a pilgrimage site for many of us.  I often mention Aldo Leopold, who introduced the idea of environmental ethics, but in truth, it was Henry David Thoreau who was one of the first persons who introduced naturalism to the American public and the need to get away in nature.  He had a strong need to go back to the land, to get his sanity back, learn what life was all about and what it could teach him:
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.
— Henry David Thoreau, Walden, "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For
The location of Thoreau's cabin near Walden Pond.
The plaque showing the location of the chimney of the cabin.
This is one of the most common used quote from Thoreau when it comes to Walden.  Walden was published in 1854 and was based on a more than 2 year stay in a cabin in the woods near Walden Pond.  It is just interesting to see how already in the mid-1800s there was an obvious need by some to get away from it all and go back to nature, to connect to nature, to experience nature and describe it.  Did Thoreau experience nature deficit disorder in 1850?  But it definitively shows the need to connect to nature.

Walden Pond
Thoreau was a fascinating character he did a lot more than just live for two years near a pond, he is worth a read and a study.  I have read a few books by him or books that tried to retrace his steps and it was impressive what he did.  But he was more that a naturalist he also was a philosopher, a humanist and humanitarian.  There is a whole society set up around this scholar and thinker.

While sitting in coffee shops, microbreweries and funky restaurants is wonderful, albeit maybe not so wonderful on the budget, they can only satisfy me so much.  It is really the nature that nurtures me and satisfies me in the long run.  Our most favorite times and memories of our trip to New England will definitively be our hikes around Walden Pond and on Mount Dessert Island (Acadia National Park); our trip to the top of Mount Battie to look over the Penobscot Bay; and our walks around all those wonderful lighthouses looking over the water (that’s nature too).  They will be staying with us much longer than that food we ate at that restaurant.

Visit to the Allagash Brewery (my favorite) in Portland Maine)

We encountered a beaver dam in Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island (near Bar Harbor, Maine)

Looking down on Camden and the Penobscot Bay from Mount Battie

One of the many lighthouses we visited and had an opportunity to enjoy ocean views.  We saw a lot of common eiders swimming in the waters below these lighthouses. 

The need for nature really struck me during our walks through downtown Boston.  It is great to see how the famous "Big Dig" stuck a major highway under ground and turned the above ground part into a park.  Moreover, it was great to walk on the Boston Commons, in the Boston Gardens and even along the Charles River.  All little pieces of green, where people could enjoy a little nature.  One bizarre thing struck me and I had to take a photograph of it (below).  Not far from the Paul Revere house was a church that where the outbuildings were completely covered with a canvas depicting plants, branches and leaves.  It reminded me of Richard Louv's in his book "The Nature Principle" in which he describes that research has shown that even pictures of nature in buildings and offices help in reducing stress.  Personally, I know that being in nature is so important in bringing down my stress level and (I assume) bringing down my blood pressure.  Nature can be the woods (green) or the water (blue).  That's why I was so fascinated by what I saw on the church; hopefully it does the same in the area near the church.  I found it such an interesting idea of using a bare wall.  What a sight!

The canvas nature mural on a church in downtown Boston

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