I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary.
– Henry David Thoreau, Walden
by the Seventh Grade
“A grey pillbug skitters across the towering woodchips. The trees are swaying with the smooth breeze. They are green with health, blooming out with the mighty force of spring… Out with the cold and frost, in with an explosion of life.”
“When you are away from society and everyday life, you start to think about the little things… You start to pay attention to that one little leaf or branch that can’t seem to hold onto its home and unfortunately falls to the ground… All of the stress of society seems to leave you with the wind… Before, I never really paid attention to this bush, but now I find it really fascinating. The bush has a mixture of bright golden leaves and dark, rich green leaves. The colors of the leaves really catch my eye. In society, there are paints and colored pencils which are dark green and golden, but they don’t have the exact pigment as the leaves on the bush.”
“I don’t want the rules and demands of now. But this is where humans have chosen to go, so there must be a reason. Right? A tree blows in the wind, so complex in its simplicity. I, as a person, have trouble seeing the “now,” as Mr. Choi wants us to. I close my eyes, lay back, and just breathe for a moment. Time to go. Is this a bad thing? Yes and no. Maybe we need rules, requirements, in order to live life as civil creatures. But we also need this. Nature.”
“All around I hear the birds singing. They repeat the same thing over and over again. As for smelling, I can’t smell anything. The pollen from the plants and the trees is plugging up my nose.”
“I feel that it would be better to come [out to nature] with a child. Out in the open, with no one around except for us two. Teach it that there is more to life than video games and money. Teach them that the world is something to appreciate and not take advantage of.”
“Someday all of this could be gone. I have to make the best of the cooling wind, the bird calls, the burning sun.. I love how the birds communicate like we speak to each other… used to speak to each other. Now we have technology to talk: telephone, skype, texting, etc. The sounds of nature are like an entire orchestra playing for the whole world but some people refuse to listen.”
“Of course, living in the city is just as good. But sometimes, you need some separation from human-made things and stress, and take some time to soak in what nature has to offer.”
“Though they are all around me, I try to block out the sight of brick buildings. They are simply a reminder of the indoor society I have come from. Through technology is appealing, this is better.
In my honest opinion, not even for the sake of this essay, if I could leave my troubles behind and sit here in the shade, it would be bliss. And yet, sadly, I cannot. My mind is plugged in with ideas of Literature Projects and Algebra exams.”
“I’ll be honest – 99% of the time I hate nature. It’s so moist and there are so many animals and so many places to injure yourself. Occasionally, a retreat outside is very relaxing. The soft, gentle breeze dancing on my skin makes me breathe in calm and relaxation. The cool rock I’m sitting on feels unknown to my urban-oriented body. Birdsong is echoing in my ears, the sun’s rays warming my clothing. This is actually a great feeling.
As an airplane flies above me, I realize that even though humanity is ever so much becoming globalized, humanity and nature are united. Water echoes and forms waves, heading to the edge very slowly, like cotton floating in the air.”
“The warm sun shines down on me as the wind works to cool me off with a small breeze. If it weren’t for the sounds of the city plaguing the garden, I might believe I was away from all things urban. The lively bugs seem to catch my interest far more than any colorful flower gently swaying. But I’ve always taken more of a liking to the beings that dwell in the dirt more than what lurks in the grass.”
“…if I close my eyes, I am no longer in the school’s garden, but in a forest, filled with trees and small animals. But one cannot stay in Paradise forever.”
“It’s difficult to really enjoy nature and its beauty because even though there’s still fresh mud, tall and looming trees, the smell of grass still wet from this morning’s shower, this nature is not pure. It has been tainted by civilization. As I look around me I see flowers that were trampled, fences put up, bits of wrappers shining in the sunlight, and the low hum of a garbage truck that is picking up its daily trash that is only a few feet away from this supposedly beauteous area.
When I look around myself I don’t feel exactly sad. How can I feel sad about something that doesn’t even have feelings of its own? No, more than that I feel guilty. I feel that over the decades man has tampered so much with nature that there is no chance of return. That we have somehow destroyed this fresh, innocent, and free life and caged it like an animal at the zoo… But maybe that is life itself. Nature is much like an infant. They are born pure, innocent, and clean of any darkening record. But as life continues, just like everyone else, they are colored by dirty civilization.”
“Nature is so peaceful, and sadly most people don’t have time to experience it. What I like about nature is that feeling you get when the wind makes the trees rustle. The sun is almost at its highest point, and it’s a clear sky, basically a perfect day.”
“We can no longer escape into our backyards because we are swamped with tomorrow’s worry. Even now, as I sit outside surrounded by leafy plants and skinny trees, I’m forced to think of everything that I going on at the current time. A garbage truck roars by, there’s a faint smell of food in the distance and my paper rests right above a folder packed with homework and projects to complete. As we all grow and attain responsibilities, the purpose of life doesn’t seem to be “just living” and it instead becomes achieving and living to the absolute fullest. This idea in society may seem like a good thing but it instead plagues our idea and thwarts our perspective into believing that we cannot be happy without society’s greatest values.
Being in society gives you an automatic background that begins at your birth and teaches everyone exactly what to think of you. A fresh start gives you another chance. If we as people could put everything behind us and not judge people by their clothes, hair, or even first impressions and knowledge we would find the cleanest slate there is. It is difficult to believe that that would ever be achievable in modern day society. It clearly isn’t. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t judge unless an action is too unforgivable. What we live in is far form a perfect society and even in my tiny spot of wilderness I am forced to look down on others and think highly of some. Without society, even in the forest preserve, a person can forget what they think of everyone and everything.”
“You will never be able to escape society. The garden is only a façade masking the outside city. Apartment buildings tower over, blocking the sun. Steel machines and garbage trucks can be heard in the background. You can travel thousands and thousands of miles but society will always find you.”
“While [nature] may be calming, I know it is not something I would dedicate my life to. Even as a cool breeze blows along, and I see a line of rocks, with my feet on the woodchips, my mind drifts to school, projects, and society. I could never bring myself to leave, no matter how stressful it is. My priority is school and grades, not so much peace and nature. I have grown accustomed to society and the comfort it grants in me.”
“I also see a monkey staring at me. This monkey appears to be wearing a polo shirt, jeans, and basketball shoes. He makes funny noises when he speaks. Not only is there one monkey, there are 32 in all, all different sizes and shapes, wearing different things, making different noises.”
“This is where I belong, not trapped in normal civilization. Out here, in nature, where I know I am free. Where I feel I am free, where I am free… Why do the animals not have the same rules?”
“…it can’t be held back forever. The city comes rushing back.”
“Society is like a machine. You are expected to work like clockwork, and keep under the power of one central part. The outside world, though, is more like an experiment… Society keeps us all alive, and well, and fed, but it leaves an empty feeling.”
“To be honest, nothing really matters. The stress of 7th grade isn’t worth it. We shouldn’t be worrying about high schools. The main thing is we need to survive. You don’t need to know Algebra, and I shouldn’t have to worry about correct grammar. What we need is shelter, food, and water. A lot of times the question is, “Why us Why do we have the thinking capacity we do? What separates us from animals?… Why should we stress ourselves out to the point of exhaustion, and physical consequences, for something that doesn’t matter? My guess is that we need a goal. But is our goal to provide us with success or to stay alive?
“The things that do last forever are good friendships and family.”
“The warmth of the sun feels good on my neck. I might have sunburn later, but that’s later and this is now. Living in the moment is something I always have trouble with. I can never take a moment to stop and enjoy living. Somewhere in the back of my head, I’m always thinking about what I have to do and how I need to finish this and that. It’s nice to just sit down here in the garden and reflect. But even here, it isn’t like I’m in some secluded area. I can hear lawn mowers and other machines humming, and there are cars chugging their way noisily down the street. Sometimes, I honestly hate how civilization ruins everything, but I’m a part of the problem.”
“There are an infinite number of hidden places… nooks and crannies and no rules against them.”
“Nature in general has more flavor than society. That’s why some people can only take it in small bits. You have to work harder to get everything, and everything becomes more precious. You have to remember that everything else around you is living too. It gives you respect for everything because everything is living with you. Speaking and voices sound out of place, because we hear other voices too.”
“The sun is shining Why must we deny and disregard what is there? Are we that insensitive to life?”
“I think I’d actually enjoy being a hermit. To get away from all of the pressure. But that would be running away, wouldn’t it? It would be admitting defeat… That’s why I will never hide. And soon, everyone’s problems will be over, because everything’s got an end… That’s one thing in common with nature and society: the weaklings get killed, and the strong ones stay alive.
“What is important? Is this important? Are questions important? Seeing things with a clear mind is seeing things in a new light. Every little rock, every leaf and every woodchip garners new importance, new possibilities. New questions come to mind, new goals, new philosophies.
On a nice day like this, with warm air and a slight breeze, and nature swirling around you, nothing seems to matter. Basked in sunlight, while leaves chase each other around the pavement, you relax. It doesn’t seem to matter if you fail a test. Harsh reality gives way to a fresh, calm, relaxed perspective. You can almost picture yourself in 20 years, frolicking in meadows amidst bird calls and rustling branches. Almost. But there is always a nagging sensation in the back of your mind. Responsibility.
But nature also has that kind of stress. Survival. Reproduction. Harsh winters and blazing summers. Predators, hunger. That’s we invented modern society. To get away from that. In the end, it all goes full circle, and to truly live, you need to balance modern life with ancient life, civilization with the wilderness, and enjoy life while it lasts.”