On Nature

As the final days of summer dwindle down, several friends and I rented a car and drove upstate to Pine Meadow Trail.

It’s always nice to get out of Manhattan, even if it isn’t far or for long. When the only nature you see on a daily basis includes trees growing haphazardly over busy streets and potted plants on fire escapes, it’s healthy to remind yourself what it’s like in the wild.

I hiked the only way I know how: in a semi-sheer top and matching speedo by Nathan Ayon, barely hidden under sheer shorts. Sandwiches and wine in our backpacks, we set out for Pine Meadow Lake.

I remembered an essay I wrote in college: The course was supposed to be on nature essays (in general) but became dedicated to Ralph Waldo Emerson (specifically). Now, I have nothing against Emerson, but an entire class on him bled me dry. So, for our final essay (prompt: walk in nature and write about it), I decided to give a middle finger to nature essays.

I wrote about walking through a mall as if I were walking the Pine Meadow Trail, describing the teenage mallrats as if they were the squirrels I saw upstate, describing the plastic plants placed nonchalantly in the middle of the mall walkways as if they were the trees that stretched all around me. I suppose I thought I was rather deep—and maybe I was. Marrs loved what I’d intended as a “Fuck nature” essay and submitted it to a publication, a book which I still have on my bookshelf at home. (The $300 I got is long gone; I’m sure spent on various items of sheer clothing.)

Smiling at the memory, I brought myself back to reality, bringing up the rear of our voyage to the lake. The thing I believe I like most about being in nature like that is that I could be anywhere, at any time in my life: Maybe I’m in upstate New York, and tomorrow I have to be back at work; maybe I’m in Iowa, a teenager, and I know I have a paper due the next day; maybe I’m in Minnesota, in my early 20s, my then-fiance (now ex-fiance) at my side. The sight of my boyfriend walking several feet before me reminds me where, and when, I am.

At the lake, we all stripped down to our bathing suits, and my best friend challenged me to swim to a large rock in the middle of the lake. I took him up on the offer and jumped in: I haven’t swum like that since I was a kid, and suddenly I was 10 years old again, swimming laps with my dad at the local pool. My friend and I made it to the rock out of breath, and out of shape.

“You know,” he said to me, breathing heavy, “now we have to swim back.”

My apartment called my name, with its potted plants on the fire escape and the tree leaning haphazardly toward my window, Chinese delivery just a phone call away. “Fuck nature,” I smiled. “Let’s go.”

Ian-Michael Bergeron

Iowa-born writer Ian-Michael Bergeron has written his weekly column in Get Out! Magazine since 2015, as well as editorials and interviews. He lives in New York City in a one-bedroom with two cats, Alexander and Thomas, and spends most of his income on shoes.

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