Most of us live in cities where the number of visible wild species was long ago winnowed down to a few dozen. The sight of anything wilder than a sparrow, pigeon, or a squirrel makes the hearts of urban dwellers soar like the eagles we nearly exterminated.
The quote is from a book called Fire in the Turtle House by Osha Gray Davidson. The focus is on the plight of the green sea turtle in Hawai’i, but this line resonated with me in a more personal sense. I commonly walk from our suburban townhouse over to a small pond surrounded by woods. “Woods” in this case is defined as the residual trees and underbrush remaining after developers have decimated the natural forest and replaced it with townhouse farms, groups of homes that have grown like corporate cornfields in this area of northern Virginia.
Still, I live for these walks. The robins, cardinals, mockingbirds, occasional sparrows, and rare wrens are joined each spring and summer by swarms of geese, many with new families that we matronly watch over as they grow through their baby down into adolescent feathers. We watch as the toothy shavings of yet another small tree reveals the nightly work of an unseen beaver. A green heron makes an appearance in search of food. The occasional great blue heron does indeed make my heart soar.
In the area I’ve also seen rabbits gnawing on grass or a neighbor’s decorative kale. Once I saw a fox. Anything bigger is usually road kill. And then it strikes me how so very true the quote above is to my area.
So while I do get out to hike in more natural nature, and have recently returned from seeing some beautiful country in the Norwegian fjords, it’s clear that I need to explore more of real nature. Growing up in a seacoast town with a much coveted beach, followed by an early career in marine biology before moving into big city consulting, I find that when I get near the water or the forest or the mountains my heart does indeed soar.
I need to let it soar more.
David J. Kent is an avid science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.