I have for a long time thought that the only place I like to be made to feel small is in a dressing room. There is something so gratifying about overestimating your own size, having to trade a selected item in for a smaller one. Otherwise, being made to feel small is rarely a good thing. In fact, it might be one of my least favorite feelings. I have written recently about my desire to grow, my fear that my life was being spent shrinking down to someone else’s size, feeling belittled goes against so many of my desires.
New York City can make you feel tiny. There are so many people and at least a million of them are more attractive, more successful, better qualified, better compensated, and better dressed than you. Their friends are more interesting, their teeth straighter and whiter, and their 24 hour days are apparently longer as they seem to be able to work and still make it to the gym. It can get overwhelming after a while, sometimes you just need to get away.
And so I do. I decided recently that I needed a little break from feeling small so I bought a bus ticket and I headed Upstate to my hometown for a few days of rest and relaxation. A few days of feeling normal-sized again. I made very few plans, I told hardly anyone that I was coming home. My priorities were sleep, catching up with my parents, and a trip to the local apple farm. I needed a little nature, and to soak up some fall.
As I prepped myself for an apple picking adventure with my mom I began to get excited. Not far from the little lake town I grew up in lay miles and miles of rolling hills. Actually, as I learned in my high school geology class, they aren’t hills at all. Rather, they are moraines: big piles of debris left behind from glaciers that travelled through the area years ago, likely before all of the apple fritter stands popped up.
I have grown to love these hills over the years, the patterns you see standing atop them are overwhelming, one hill after another. In the fall you see miles and miles of brightly colored leaves just days away from their descent to the soon snow covered ground. Homes are scattered throughout, pools now covered until the next summer season.
I remember these hills as a kid, when they felt like mountains to drive through. I remember them as an adolescent when I learned what they truly were, and for the first time understood how the mystical history of science from millennia ago was actually a part of my daily life. I will remember them now, as a craving for a break from the big city that makes me feel so small.
I bundled up, we drove through the hills until we arrived at the apple farm. I got out of the car, the cool wind whipping my face. I looked out over the hills, I took in the familiar scenery. It was exactly as my memory had saved it in my head, and then better. I breathed in the crisp, fresh air, felt the not so bright sun on my face. I stood there in the openness of nature and I felt so incredibly, joyfully, and perfectly small.
Weird right? I was a little surprised too. But then I got to thinking, the way nature makes us feel small is somehow empowering. It isn’t the same vulnerable small that people can make us feel. It is a “in the grand scheme of things you are really small, so go ahead and be small” kind of feeling.
It is validating.
Nature says it’s ok to be small, because we are.
You are enough.
Here I am fighting against this city to make myself big enough. But I already am. Who I am, what I am doing. That is already enough.
Maybe this is what we all crave about nature, this reminder of how little we are and how big everything else is.
My best friend visited me recently. I have told you about her before in Leap of Faith. As she and I walked to dinner we got to talking about the city, my neighborhood, my life. I started telling her about the park, Central Park. I told her about how much I love it and how amazed I am by it. The park is beautiful, an escape from the city in the middle of the city. That is exactly it, in the middle of the city. Those of you who live here, or visit often, know and understand the enormity of inconvenience the park represents. It divides a city East from West. Removing the park would make billions for the city, would eliminate the division, alleviate the hassle. And yet, no one suggests it. No one complains about it being there, because we need it.
“Biophilia” Betsy said.
The scientific concept that humans are innately or intrinsically bonded to nature according to Edward O. Wilson. Betsy, an environmental scientist and PhD candidate in Marine Biology has used this concept to drive her research to find ways to improve human practice to prevent further destruction of our world.
This connection, this smallness is something we all crave and value.
I needed the opportunity to feel small for the day. To stand on a hill and know that the world is so much bigger than I am. So big that I will never fit it. I am small, and I am enough.
I hope you too have a chance to make it outside and feel small before this season ends and you have to feel small and cold simultaneously. I hope that in a moment of the sun warming your face, or stars shooting across the sky before your eyes, you can accept that you are enough. We are each such a small piece of this big world we share.
“One aspect of the biophilia concept is beyond debate: humans are intricately connected with their environment.”
Florida International University
Biological Sciences Department