Lately I’ve been thinking about space, about how wide open, uninterrupted space in nature affects the human body on the atomic level. I know how wide open space affects me emotionally and psychologically – but how about physiologically?
For the past few years, I have had deep physical yearnings for the expanse of nature. More than yearnings really – more like an overwhelming, powerful, need. This photograph was taken by me on a solo camping trip I took this past spring, in the beautiful wilds of the Jumbo Rocks in Joshua Tree – one of my favorite places on earth. The open space here is absolute…seemingly endless, and with that space comes the amazing, restorative, beautiful hum, of silence…which, of course, is never really silent. For in silence we hear the surrounding world; perhaps the call of a bird, the movement of wind, an acorn falling, the clap of thunder, the patter of rain, the airplane passing overhead. But without exception, the one thing we are always certain to hear in the truest of silence, is our breath, the inspire and expire of it…the essence of life itself, as we pull the invisible history of earth into our bodies, thus connecting us to the space and time that surrounds.
Perhaps it is the reminder of this connection, of this interactive give and take, that my very life is connected to the space around me, that pulls me to exist for awhile – as often as I can – in the open, vibrating, uninterrupted expanse of the natural world, and the silence that this allows. Perhaps my need has to do with living in a major metropolitan city, where the noise and bustle constantly presses closer to one’s everyday experience…perhaps it has to do with my upbringing in the midwest, living in a house set on several acres in the wood, a pond in the backyard, deer, fox, geese, ducks, muskrat, pheasant our regular visitors, room to roam, dirt roads, agate hunting, open fields all around…perhaps I am simply longing for my origination, to interact with the natural world as I did as a kid, when I was being formed. Perhaps it is simply our natural state of being.
The human body is made up of 99.9% nothing. There is no solid matter. We and other matter are almost entirely empty space, as we are made of atoms, and atoms themselves are almost entirely empty space…so, this gets me to thinking that perhaps, on the deepest level of our human experience, our very atoms yearn for – or at the very least, are affected by – the body’s physical surroundings, and when we place our body in the center of the Grand Canyon, or in a wide open meadow, or the depths of a forest, our atoms actually respond to this splendor, as they revel, and meld into the vastness of natures expanse.
I am certainly no physicist, atomic or otherwise, and I was unable to unearth any probings into this line of thinking in my quick search online…but if I am asking this question, I am certain someone else out there has probably asked as well, or perhaps is studying this now. I would be very interested to know – so if anyone out there knows anything about this field of study – please do send me a link :)
For now, what I do know is that open space, silence, the natural world, feeds my spirit, my body, my soul – and without the canyons, fields, ocean and its endless shoreline, the mountains, its trails, the lakes, desert, and mind-opening beauty of our natural parks…all here in this magnificent, glorious, state called California – I would be physically unable to live here. For open space that feeds the soul, feeds the creative spirit, and without that food, how would I ever create.