During a serendipitous exploration, I found suburban-defying wilderness and learned more about human nature. Perhaps yours included.
I couldn’t believe my fortune. On my first run in my neighborhood I’d discovered a hidden trail system! Other city animals “in” on the secret: Canis vulgaris and Homo mountainbikus. Beaming, with bated breath, I entered. I walked carefully. I listened closely. I reveled in the dappled light. I picked up trash. I was unexpectedly comforted by the continuous drone of traffic. (Maybe I felt slightly wary, and craved the assurance of nearby civilization.) Instructive for anyone who encourages urbanites to enjoy the wild: each culture and level of urbanization embraces its own subtle signs of safety.
Sure, I noticed invasive species.
But that didn’t detract from my jubilation while surrounded by this enchanted area.
As I wound between trees and under limbs, I felt I had discovered something. Even surrounded by clear signs of human interaction, I felt the place was mine, dear to me. (Have you felt that?)
An unexpected insight, in November, with Thanksgiving looming.
Our society has alternately revered and reviled explorers and conquerors. We wonder why they did what they did. But we know that effort leads to feeling ownership, and I invested far less effort, emotion, blood, and time in my discovery than the first conquistadors spent simply to arrive here.
An ember of compassion for the hero-villain conqueror-explorers of the Americas (and the world) burgeoned. How would my attitude toward wilderness and native peoples be different if I lived in a different era? Previous explorers valued their discoveries, but operated within a different paradigm – one of dominion and objectification. I’m now closer to understanding why they considered their rights unrestricted.
Insight doesn’t excuse inhumane behavior. But it can engender compassion and squelch judgment. Like mine.
If I’d found the entrance via satellite map, it wouldn’t have been as exciting, as connection-inducing as making the discovery in person. Good educators know that guided discovery (not spoon-feeding) is the best way to engage learners of all ages. Exploration is engaging. It’s eye-opening.
Explore with others. If you’re a teacher or a parent, give your kids the chance to explore. Be fearless. Or rather, admit your fears and still go for it.
And, dare I suggest it? Explore on your own. You’ll learn about your world, and about yourself.