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Inside the Shell

What a beautiful thing it is to witness a small bird hatch and begin its life. To go from a bare and helpless creature encased in a shell, to that of an adult bird is simply amazing. Watching the slow, exhausting process of a beak chipping away from the inside, opening a tiny hole and making it bigger and bigger. Escaping to life outside the shell and the next step for survival. Helpless, frail, sensitive to light and dependent on food from parents, the chick grows rapidly. Within mere weeks it is covered in feathers and ready to fly. To catch a breeze and soar above the earth, free of the confines below and the shell from which it came.

When we are born, like the bird, we are helpless and feeble, dependent on our parents to survive. We grow and become independent, we leave the "nest" and fly to a new place to continue the process of life. And that is where the similarities end. We fall into the human routine of system and order. Rise, work, eat, sleep, and repeat. Not always in that exact order, but you know what I am talking about.

Sometimes, I will lay on my back in my front yard and watch hawks soar on the wind currents high above me. It is mesmerizing. It seems as though they are at peace as they glide carelessly above. Floating higher and higher on the updrafts, up to the point where I can barely see them. Or, watching them angle their descent and cut deeply into a dive.

I feel as though we have abandoned what it means to be a living creature, co-existing with others. To truly be free. We have separated ourselves so drastically from the earth in every thing we do that we don’t understand the very place from which we came. It has become foreign. Malls, indoor shopping, grocery stores, cars, jets, carpet, television, computers, smartphones…tall buildings made of concrete and steel, giant churches where members sing and pray in a man-made creation. Power lines criss-crossing roadways of concrete and blacktop. Rivers dammed and made into docile lakes. Forested hillsides carved into barren and dead wastelands from mining. Space junk floating around in the atmosphere above us. We mark our territory like a male dog on an afternoon walk.

Have we put ourselves knowingly into the confines of a shell and gone in the wrong direction? Instead of learning to fly we have gone back into the egg. Instead of gliding on the draft, we have tried to harness it.

Funeral homes run ads showing very spiritual, wild places when talking about losing a loved one. Funny, I never see a shopping mall, computer store, the stock market or church interior in those ads. It is always nature. Always a scene of live oaks or a close up of a beautiful flower. The syndicated television show CBS Sunday Morning, ends every show with about 30 seconds of nothing but nature. No voice, no music, just a view and the sounds that were there at the time.

Studies have found that stress levels drop when people are in nature. Patients are calmer in a hospital room whose windows face a park or woods instead of another building or a street.

Yet, we are told in order to survive, we must follow the ways of generations before us. After all, nature is the enemy. Nature is the invader. Nature is a commodity. Nature is foreign.

I sometimes envy the songbird singing outside my window on a summer morning. We tell ourselves that we are the most advanced creature on the planet, yet we still are in the shell.

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