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the return to nature - sidonie baylis

To die is to return to the earth. Not an original thought, and also not true for Vikings, whose bodies are pushed out to sea on flaming planks of wood, therefore returning them to the freezing body of water that is the North and Norwegian seas.

I keep telling my housemate, technically – technically – we are stardust. The same as stardust. We’re made of atoms made of neutrons and protons and electrons. Different numbers, different combinations, bonds, shapes, stability – but the same basic building blocks. She does not disagree, but after three years of living together and seven months of lockdown, we’re running low on conversational topics.

We are nature. We just forget. We create societies and build houses and surround ourselves with backlit screens and flashing graphics that keep us up at night. We spend our lives separating ourselves from it (unless you’ve seen the US reality TV show Alone – they’re trying every so hard to get back to it), and we wonder why we don’t feel right. We wonder why so many headaches, why so depressed, why so anxious, whilst trying to survive in a world designed out of greed and others’ ambition. It all seems so normal, it’s what we grew up with, it’s what we lived with our whole lives, it seems – ironically – natural. All the while the subconscious struggles to focus, struggles to adjust to a state that is not what it is designed for, what it evolved for. Humans stopped evolving 10,000 years ago, long before modern society was even a figment of a caveman’s imagination. What we live with is not right.

It is proven many times over that connecting with nature will increase happiness, improve mental health, and even give your skin a glow if you’re lucky enough to live in a place with sunshine (I utter bitterly from the north of England). To be outside (again, if you’re lucky enough to live in a place where it has not been raining non-stop for a fortnight) is to feel calm. To be among the trees, sit by the ocean, prance across feels is all to feel better. Even jogging around the streets will help a bit. It is what we crave, deep, deep down, underneath the pull of Instagram and Netflix and central heating.

And so it feels almost peaceful that to die would mean an inevitable return to the natural. To be forever in the dirt or ashes scattered across... somewhere pretty, I haven’t though much about it... gives a sense of relief. Forever with the wind and the fresh air and the sounds of birds or the waves crashing against rocks or in the ground nurturing plants and insects and not stuck in my little house with all the windows shut to reduce the noise of the building works down the road that have been going on since I moved here. To die would be a release from all that is unnatural – from capitalism, from consumerism, from money-driven politics and civil unrest and social media and 9-5 jobs and debt and plastic and man-made climate catastrophes and the trauma of living with all of that inescapably on your back (unless you happen to be very, very wealthy).

It is over, and you are free. You can’t do anything anymore, because you are dead (or that is the case in my atheist, western brain, anyway), but at least you are finally returned to the ground and the stars and the ocean. You are once again one with nature.


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