PATRICK STEPHENSON

Earthbound concerns of an ascendant adult

“Nature is a Hellish Void”

by Patrick Stephenson,
apparent republican? (no)

TEMPERAMENTAL RIFT // All appearances to the contrary, nature is a hellish void. Every breathtaking sight in the natural world, whether of a sunrise, a sunset, a white beach or a snow-capped mountain range, is designed to fool us into believing that, because nature is visually appealing, Natureit is also caring. As another person, one long ago knocked off by nature, once said, “Beauty always promises, but never gives anything.” Nature exceeds that. It also takes. Your life. It will eventually kill you.

Last week, my family and I spent a few days vacationing at our cabin in northern Minnesota. The night before we left, nighttime temperatures grew chilly, but we didn’t shut up the cabin’s windows until far too late. The trouble looming didn’t lie in the chill’s ability to threaten us, but rather in the billions of tiny bugs flitting invisibly around the area during the day. A pretty-faced cannibal on the prowl, eating from within, is nature. Those billions appeared at night in cloud-like swarms on our deck, clamoring for warmth in swirling funnels of life hovering beneath our deck lights’ illusory protection. I imagined a mid-air bug orgy, enlarging the funnels until they threatened to overtake the entire cabin. Because we’d left windows open, some bugs had broken in through the holes in each screen and had coated the walls in every upstairs bedroom. We were, in effect, barricaded into the bottom floor of our cabin, unable to leave, and surrounded by tiny-eyed alien forces. This is the beauty of nature for you.

I felt like finding a hose and bringing it onto the deck. I wanted to spray all the bugs down and kill millions with a single, screaming swivel from left to right. I knew, however, that characters in horror movies often try things similar, but are swarmed and engulfed until they’ve dissolved to skeletons. I stayed inside, and scrunched into the space provided by a couch that was not meant to accommodate someone sleeping, worried still that bugs might eventually break through and go down into my yawning mouth as I slept. I did not sleep. Not for a while. I would not give in to nature without a fight. I fought hard.

I survived, but nearly died again the next day. When we went boating that afternoon, I sailed behind in an inflatable tube strung up to the end. This was, at first, fun, because I had no difficulty holding on and felt like I’d mastered some untamable element of the natural landscape. “You waving water,” I thought, “you unending abyss symbolizing death: you are mine.” Eventually, though, the boat roared into mid-lake waves, and I flew up and over the sloping end of a single green-blue one. After several seconds of slow suspension, I fell back to the surf below, cracking my jaw on the tube, then losing the tube and falling out into the water face-first. I idled as I waited for my family to retrieve me, and felt concussed.

In the hours after we reached home, I convinced myself that I’d had a mild concussion, that I was dizzy and should not sleep. I walked into the bathroom and spat out blood, then looked up into the mirror above the sink. “Nature,” I thought, “you are a bastard. But you still haven’t managed to kill me.” I walked out, but turned back in to reface myself: “Please don’t try again this weekend.” Ever the softie, Nature gave me a weekend pass. Despite her generosity, I know now that Nature’s break was a fluke and that my time might still be coming soon. And so might yours. If you still have doubts, if you want more proof of Nature’s wrath, look no further than our literature, wherein scholars have categorized millions of works into a conflict genre called “Man vs. Nature.” This struggle is classic.

Written by patiomensch

March 7, 2007 at 4:08 pm

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