Anybody who follows us may notice I haven’t posted for a while. Unfortunately I have been ill and in hospital. Trapped inside a small room in an urban hospital, you really get to appreciate the great outdoors, but it is also very disorientating when you finally leave your little room and venture back out into the great wide world again. This got me thinking how people must feel when experiencing natural environments for the very first time.
When you live in an enclosed space, your world shrinks. Your whole world becomes the size of the little hospital room in which you are living. Slowly, your perception of the world alters until it becomes the size of your room. Even venturing out into the hospital corridor for a test or investigation becomes rather disorientating. A walk down the corridor becomes quite an adventure. And when you are finally discharged home, the hospital car park seems rather intimidating and large, and I felt grateful for the smaller space inside the car, much more akin to that which I had been occupying.
This got me to thinking: lots of people live their lives in small spaces. A small house, a small room, a small office, a small pub or restaurant, a small car, a crowded night club. If this is all you experience, then the great outdoors, at least when you are outside the confines of a nice comforting car, must seem very disorientating, and probably quite frightening. Your perception of the world is challenged because you are confronted with something much larger than your normal range of experiences, and without apparent boundaries.
If a child grows up experiencing only a small classroom, a small garden, a small house, and a small playground, then this feeling of disorientation that took only a week to develop in me, must be all the more apparent, and probably quite terrifying. No wonder, then, that so few people venture more than a few yards into the outdoors, just a few safe yards from their car. Nature, and wild spaces, are something seen on the TV, and therefore an alien experience. And something that is alien, and a bit frightening, cannot really be appreciated, valued and thus protected.
It is absolutely essential that exploration of truly rural wild spaces is an opportunity given to everybody. Without the appreciation of the true size of natural spaces, the true unpredictability of that environment, and the true beauty of truly wild places, there can be no connection with them, and without that connection, their importance passes people by. Until, of course, they are no longer there to be experienced at all.
My experience of the shrinking world has certainly given me a perspective on how people must feel venturing out into the wild for the first time. And redoubled my importance to ensure that people experience an expanding, rather than shrinking, perception of the world.