By Dylan Stuntz, American Forests
I’ve always been fascinated by vines. Ever since I was little, I would help my mother in her garden, and I would always make a beeline for the peas, just to check on their progress. It was just so interesting to watch them stretch and grasp as the weeks went by, meandering up trellises and over branches. It was my first exposure to nature as something capable of change.
When I was younger, I imagined nature to be a massive, unchanging entity. I was positive all forests had stood since the beginning of time, and sure the entire world was covered in verdant greenery. I grew up in rural Vermont, surrounded by incredible forests and foliage. I was skiing as soon and I could stand, and hiking as soon as I could walk. Nature to me was as common as air, this all-encompassing, limitless resource.
Then I moved to the city, trading my dirt roads for pavement, my trees for street lights and my cricket chirps for car horns. Suddenly my air had been cut off. Like a swimmer abruptly dunked underwater, I reached for air at every opportunity. I desperately searched, finding small parks, running trails, little patches of green. I found my greenspaces in an urban jungle and, bit by bit, this country boy adjusted to city life.
Now, when I visit Vermont, I linger on the trails, I breathe deeper when I pass a wildflower and I stare longer at the star-filled sky. I no longer take the trees for granted because I’ve learned what it’s like to live without them.
I’m at American Forests because of extraordinary places that always seemed ordinary to me. People say I’m passionate about forests. I reply, how could I not be? I dare anyone to stand in a forest during a rainstorm, summit a mountain when fall forests are showcasing their foliage, or listen to a summer symphony of crickets, and not become breathless. I’m here so the beauty of the natural world can become ordinary to everyone.