By: Chris Warren
Maybe it’s the wide open skies, or the view that goes for endless miles, but I get a sense of freedom being out in the country. The sweetest moments are when I cannot see any man made object, not even a jet trail in the sky, or hear any man made noise. I marvel at it all and hear a voice that says “God exists.” It’s a complete peace, a greatness, that no city or human-based creation can replicate.
The other day I was on a road trip that took me through north central Illinois. I’ve made this trip dozens of times before and I never find myself in a state of bored repetitiveness. Sitting on the tailgate of my truck sipping a cold soda I had a perfect view of cornfields meeting a clear blue sky that literally stretched as far as I could see. As if on cue, a bird started singing. I look over my shoulder to spot a cardinal (which is the state bird of Illinois, by the way). It was greatness in the voice of a little bird.
Any place that you can hear only natural sounds is a good place. My own backyard qualifies, most of the time, depending on which way the wind is blowing and how busy the railroad is. When I visit the big city, the thing I notice the most is the noise. In the city there is never a moment when I cannot hear some form of man made noise.
I first came to appreciate the greatness of the natural world years ago when I discovered motorcycles. I was looking for a place to rip through turns and charge up hills and run free for hours without the inconvenience of traffic congestion. Not being encapsulated in a car meant I could smell the trees and the muddy rivers, and yes even the cows. I could feel the subtle temperature changes when I rolled through a shaded grove. I found myself purposely stopping in the middle of nowhere and shutting the engine off just to meditate on the greatness of nature without man’s interference.
Nature taught me about its majesty by tempting me to stop and pay attention to it, which is actually not very hard when the man made distractions are gone. From the fields and birds mere feet away to the wind and lightning and stars and the planets in the night sky, nature has much to tell. Through some cosmic twist of irony, the natural world says the most about itself during the quietest moments. For all the greatness of the earth I’ve been lucky enough to see for myself, there is so much more out there I have not seen. Spending a few hours zipping through the Midwest is cool for what it is, but the United States also has mountains and valleys and oceans, all of which have their own unique lessons to teach.
A few years ago I went on another road trip to visit a friend in Florida, and that of course means hitting the beach! He did not take me to the touristy beach where there are so many people and blankets that you can barely see the sand; he instead took me to the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Most of the place is not accessible by car. We trudged for over half an hour, through the sand and Florida heat, dragging our stuff with us. We plopped down in a spot where we could not see a single person both ways up the shore. But for some tall buildings in the distance and the occasional boat going by, I could have been fooled into thinking we were shipwrecked on an island. We brought our iPhones to play some music, but we never used them. The sound of the waves gently rolling in and the caw of the gulls was too perfect to be marred by digital cacophony.
Most people live in or near a large city, and while there is nothing wrong with that, the city makes it too easy to become detached from what the world would be like if humans were not constantly messing with it. I like convenient shopping and quick pizza delivery as much as anyone, but being away from it does a lot for me too. The country is nature’s way of saying it does not need tall buildings and impressive boulevards to achieve greatness. It gives me a feeling of appreciation for God’s wonder, the perfect plan of His creation, and patriotism for a mighty nation that has given me more than what can be contained within its vast borders. The land stretches out before me for more miles than my truck will ever reach and speaks of His greatness without using a single word.