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Davis, California

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

In Our Nature

And in each breath, infinity

Look up.

A brisk night breeze sends a shiver down my spine as I stand under the the vast expanse of the winter sky. No clouds tonight, just the silhouette of my hand reaching into the midst of the teeming multitude of lights above me. My hand, in those stars. It’s incredible, isn’t it? Here I stand, face-to-face with the universe’s endless plane yet it all seems to rest right there at the tip of my fingers. Dwarfed by the cosmos, I somehow feel paradoxically larger than life. And as I gaze upward at this beautiful sky, I can’t help but wonder – who could want more? In the whole wondrous universe we call home, could anywhere offer a more magnificent sight? It is our place in the stars, our remarkable, serendipitous placement on this sweet green earth that’s gifted us  this view, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Look out.

My tent door opens with a splitting zip and I step out into the light of the recently broken dawn. A hint of piney smoke lingers in the air, causing me to wistfully recall the warm campfire that had crackled and roared the night now past. Shuffling around the camp in search of what I need to start making my morning oatmeal and tea, I find myself irresistibly compelled to pause for a moment in the budding sunlight. Being out in the world of open air and simple truths can do that to you – overcoming your busy ways and your perpetual motion to suspend you in that sacred, precious moment. I look, I listen, I feel. Every tree, every boulder, the rushing creek and the great mountain by my side all are humming with the vibrancy of the very same life that courses through my body. Out here in the midst of it all, I know that this is how it feels to be connected. This is how it feels to be whole.

Look around.

Laying in the center of the Quad, the sky and the trees swirl into an impressionistic blur as I close my eyes. All around me, there are people. Some are happy, some are less than so.  Some are moving, and others are laying with me in the grass. But in every one of them there beats a heart that pumps their blood and keeps them going. One that quickens when they fall in love, and slows when they lay down to rest. It’s a rhythm, it’s a flow, and all across the world, the billions of heartbeats of all creatures great and small throb together in endless harmony. If you’re paying close attention, you’ll feel the earth’s chest as it rises and falls with us and through us. And in each breath lies an infinity of life.

What is in our nature? In these 10 columns, it is my hope that the perspectives I’ve shared have provided you all with many ways to look at the answer to this question. Nature means many different things to many different people, and I believe there is a meaning out there for everyone. Whether you’ve been attracted to the perspective, the exercise, or the adventure, I hope something I’ve said has inspired you to get outdoors and see a little more of this world we’re so blessed to inhabit.

But at the center of all those perspectives, ingrained deep in the heart of the earth, rests one great truth. You can find it when you go out into the wild, and you can find it when you lay in the midst of the living energy of the UC Davis quad. It’s there in every mighty redwood and every tiny bud of spring. All across our intricate patchwork planet, and echoed through the stars all around, the exuberant truth remains; this whole beautiful earth is ours to experience, cherish and love. It is our paradise, our incredible oasis in the great sea of the universe, and when we learn to live with and through it, it will live with and through us too. Because no matter how big the universe is, in the light of its grand visage we can be big too, and no matter how small our hearts may be, a whole universe of love is created as they beat side by side.

You and me; the sun and the stars; the sky above and the earth below; hope, adventure, friendship, love and the pulse of life resounding through it all. All these things and an infinity more are in our nature. Now let’s go find them.

Nick Jensen can be reached at njensen@ucdavis.edu.

Graphic by Sandra Bae.


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