I hope that many of you have been able to catch the new Ken Burns documentary on the U.S. National Parks (PBS, every evening this week at 8:00, or check your local listings). Aside from offering incredible visuals, all in high definition, it tells the story of the birth of our country as we know it today. It's so hard to believe that less than 150 years ago, the West was completely wild. It was a lot easier back then to get legislation related to protecting wildlands passed because most politicians knew they would never get to see it (or find voters out there).
The first episode this past week told the story of John Muir, whom I had always admired but never quite knew much about. What surprised me is that he wasn't a "mountain man" who chose to live out in nature his whole life. He actually went back and forth between nature and "civilization" as a talented inventor and industrial worker, a writer, and even an orchardist (he ran his father-in-law's orchard). But as he aged, he needed nature more than ever, and sought out wildness wherever and whenever he could. In nature, he found the God that his abusive preacher father had tried to beat into him as a child. (Why is it that so many "religious" people can justify violence and abuse?)
Anyway, I was thinking about my own desperate need for nature on a much smaller scale. It involves sleeping with the windows open. I love it this time of year when the night air is cool--and even slightly frosty--but the crickets are still singing real slowly (did you know you can tell the temperature outside by the speed of their "cricking?" Count the number of chirps in 15 seconds, add 37, and you get the approximate temperature in degrees Fahrenheit). Snuggled under all my soft and comfy organic bedding, I am feeling all warm and wonderful, while the air in the room is sweet, cool, and so refreshing. It's an elixir that is priceless.
I spend a lot of time in New York City these days. It's exciting and action-packed there, and every week I meet so many wonderful new people and do my best to move the world a little closer towards health and happiness. But even the fanciest New York hotel can't provide me with the ultimate luxury: fresh night air, the sound of crickets (and the occasional fox, which kind of sounds like a barking cat), and the sweetest fragrance of nature, for which I have a desperate need.
Aside from my glorious kids and husband, it's what I love most about coming home.
For more from Maria Rodale, go to http://www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com.