Saturday, September 18, 2010

Wanted: Full-Time Biophiliac

Would that the valleys were your streets, and the green paths your alleys, that you might seek one another through vineyards, and come with the fragrance of the earth in your garments.

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

I often think of this quote while living on Haida Gwaii. Yesterday afternoon, a friend arrived at my doorstep--her garments smelling of salt air and sunshine. This is the kind of place where you can visit your friends by walking down the beach, or along a path in the forest. Soon we settled into the dunes and perched ourselves on a log. Soon our garments were smelling of gin and tonic. During momentary lapses of conversation, we'd look up to see Alaskan glaciers in the distance, or flocks of sandpipers rise and fall in shimmers. We'd lift our glasses, brushing sand from their bases, and continue talking about things like conflict resolution, turning forty, and the fine line between contentedness and low-grade depression. And then the sun began to set. It was one of those moments when all is right with the world.

Strangely, I've been having lots of those moments lately. Last week-end, it was on the same log with different friends. The sky was hot pink that evening and we drank something rich and heady, tasting of plump, dark berries and a place called Cowichan. Then it was atop an ancient lava flow scanning the Pacific for breaching whales. The taste of elderflower-huckleberry wine lingered as sky and ocean fused.

I'm beginning to wonder if someone is playing a trick on me. I thought it was time to stoke the fire and watch the days shorten into nothingness. If my habitual writer's angst doesn't return soon, I'll have to become a full-time biophiliac--a lover of living systems. It's a term I first heard a couple of weeks ago on CBC when David Suzuki was interviewing several scientists about the instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems.

In a world of disorders, there's a new one to add to the list: nature-deficit disorder. It seems that things like trees and flowers aren't just pretty--they're functional. In fact, one scientist argued they're as important as vitamins. Apparently, heart rates go down nine units when surrounded by nature. Our brains go on vacation. Could that be what's happening to me? Have I been hanging out with nature for too long? I wonder how much one's heart rate goes down when surrounded by ocean and forest for two and a half years. Have I mistaken my inertia for a state of deep relaxation? Is that why I'm having so many "moments" lately?

I've booked a ticket to Vancouver in October to find out. I'll visit friends by gliding on SkyTrains and treading upon pavement. I'll come with the fragrance of fossil-fuel emissions on my garments. Let's see if my heart rate quickens at the sight of a parking lot. Let's see what souvenirs my brain brings back from vacation.

Thank you for reading.

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