Friday, August 19, 2016

Biophilia; The new Hozho

It's been far too long since I have had an outdoor adventure. My intentions are good, but time and circumstance have worked against me. Being immersed in the art of the people is a fabulous lifestyle, but there must be more to life than this. As I often mention, getting into the back country is something I do to maintain harmony and balance, my personal hozho. I have blatantly appropriated the word hozho from my Navajo neighbors because, in a nutshell, it best describes where I want be both mentally and physically. A deep primal need to affiliate with the natural world and the fulfillment of that desire keeps me in sync with all other aspects of consequence in my life.

It seems I am not the only one who feels that way. I recently had a customer in the trading post that had an extremely sad story to tell. His name was Hank, and he was a worried, wrinkled fellow who looked far older than his 57 years. Hank explained he married young, right out of high school, and went directly to college to earn a degree in engineering. Three children were born of the marriage during his college years, two girls and a boy. After university he and his small family moved to Milwaukee, where he landed a mediocre job with a large construction firm. He worked hard, invested heavily in his employer's investment program and bought a few stocks and bonds in hopes of helping his kids through college and having a satisfying retirement.

Hank also told me he became a workaholic, spending far more time at the office than with his family. As his children grew, went off to school and moved far away, they grew distant. His focus on fulfilling financial obligations cost him dearly when it came to his offspring. When he turned 55 his life was turned upside down. His precious partner contracted breast cancer and died, and the company in which he had invested his life ravaged his retirement account and filed for Chapter Eleven bankruptcy. He was emotionally and financially devastated, and thought seriously about taking his own life. Although this begins as a sad story, there is an upside, so please hang with me.

Hank described an extremely close relationship with his wife, much of which stemmed from their mutual obsession with nature films and documentaries. When he was home from work, he and she would sit together and wonder at the majesty of the natural world as it was presented to them on the small screen. Upon retirement their plan was to travel the American continent and visit every national park and monument they possibly could. Just before she passed, Hank's wife made him promise to follow through on their dream; she would travel with him in spirit and he could expound upon his experience through meditation and prayer. They would maintain their connection spiritually until they met again on a heavenly plane.

Luckily their home was paid for and some of the outside investments he had made secured a minimal retirement. He sold his house, bought a Ford truck with a Duramax diesel engine, equipped the pick-up with a cab-over camper and hit the road. As he traveled and immersed himself in nature, Hank began to heal. He told me that in the last two years he has discovered peace and solace through his witness of, and immersion in, the many wonders of the natural world. I had to laugh when, as if he had read my mind, he told me, "If you think I look bad now, you should have seen me a few years ago."

Hank kept his promise by treasuring his wife's memory and keeping her updated through whispered messages. Hank told me he has, "Knelt and prayed on mountain tops and canyon rims; in deep, thick forests; and upon the driest and most desolate of deserts." He has also reconnected with his children, and their children as well. He was on his way to Portland to pick-up two grandsons to introduce them to the Northwest coast. Hank was an exquisite storyteller; through him I felt a world of emotion; his joy, pain and rebirth. I was flattered he would take the time to share his story with me.


Just today Laurie forwarded me one of those electronic messages that gets passed around her workplace. It was an essay on how nature has a restorative effect on people and how spending time in the natural world exhilarates and rejuvenates the body and brain. For me, being immersed in nature is an uncomplicated therapy rich in visual, auditory and textural impressions. I am much more settled after a hefty dose of the great outdoors. After reading the article Laurie wrote, "I better know now why you love the mountain so much." The email also referenced a National Geographic You Tube video titled; This Is Your Brain On Nature.

The lecture revealed many interesting fact, one of which was, “As of 2010 human beings have officially become an, "Urban species!" That means more people live in cities than don't, and the trend is accelerating. The scary part is that the average American and European spend ninety percent of his or her time indoor and an additional five percent in their car. That leaves only five percent to commune with nature. No way! Yes, way!!

As for Hank and me, we choose to be known as biophiliac’s. Pulitzer Prize-winning biologist Edward Wilson coined the term to describe, “The connection human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life.” For me, being a biophiliac means I have a deep need to interact with nature. I do it because it positively effects my mood, lowers my blood pressure, keeps me healthier and helps me to better interact with other people. (Especially Steve when he goes off on a tear and publishes controversial letters to the editor.) To me, biophilia involves spending time on the mountain. Anyone who knows me knows I am a mountain-junkie! Just being in the midst of the peaks, smelling the pine-scented air, listening to the wind blow through the trees, hearing the cry of a hawk or seeing wildlife leaves me relaxed, centered and at peace.

With warm regards from Barry Simpson and the team;
Steve, Pricsilla and Danny.