By Kerry Tinga
From Manila to London, I have always loved being in a busy city. It was the environment in which I was raised and the way I wanted to continue living the rest of my life. When I was deciding on colleges and universities I was going to apply to, one of my top priorities was “location, location, location!” I wanted my walks to class to be exciting, passing museums, galleries, restaurants, and the like, always somewhere new to go to and try.
During my time in London I have tried to take advantage of being walking distance from some of the world’s greatest art museums, marvels of architecture, and to simply admire the general splendor of this major center of human history and culture. Over the past few years, however, the concrete walls on every corner have begun to feel a bit suffocating and the stress of city living has begun to wear me out.
One of the great things about London, or at least one of the things I have grown to appreciate the most over the three years I have been there, are the parks. I used to walk through the parks just as a way to get from point A to point B, maybe thinking to myself how quaint it was, but never really seeing it as anything more than a passageway to somewhere more important. Nowadays, I see it as a point to go to in and of itself, for a little break from the city while still being in the city. From the small, pocket parks that take up less than a block, to huge expanses of green like Hyde or Regent Park, especially now that it is spring and restaurants and shops are starting to design and decorate their facades with flowers to welcome the changing of the seasons. The gardens around the city are beginning to bloom, people are trading in their thick coats for light cardigans, and they are spending more and more time in these “lungs of London” to give themselves a moment to breath.
Sometimes I get caught up in the feats of mankind that I forget to acknowledge and appreciate the beauty of the natural world. It is fantastic to think that someone painted that, or built that, or sewed that. What is just as fantastic, in a different way, is to think about how some things in life as so beautiful and perfect in their very nature, in nature, over years and years and years in the chronicle of the universe. There is something so calming in being around flowers and trees, having dirt and grass beneath your feet instead of a pavement, because it is all “real” in my truest understanding of the word.
Over the Holy Week break I visited Zhangjiajie with my family, the first national park of China and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most people may be more familiar with it as the inspiration for the mountains in James Cameron’s Avatar. It had been years since I had last visited China, and back then it was to the busy cities of either Shanghai or Beijing, or to see the Great Wall of China, voted as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, or the Terracotta Warriors of Xi’An. I remember that all of those sites were extremely impressive when I was a child, but this was my first time visiting one of China’s natural wonders, these apparently “floating mountains.”
After we drove to the entrance of the national park, then hopped on a bus to reach what was claimed to be the highest and fastest elevator in the world, then on another bus at the top, then dozens of sets of stairs… we started to wonder if these mountains were really worth it, especially when our tour guide said we needed to turn around because part of the path was closed for the day. Eventually, at the last few steps, I saw the famous Hallelujah Mountain, an amazingly narrow rock jutting out from the earth. At that moment all I heard was myself saying, “Wow.”
It is crazy to think that all of the things that happened in that small part of the world, all these natural events that occurred even before we as humans were in existence, eventually led to the creation of this beautiful work of nature, and to the creation of every work of nature. From the largest national parks to the smallest of gardens and even to a single flower, its sweet aroma and the grace in its features, all made by nature. We should steal a few moments in our busy schedules to admire all these things, even if it is just a mango tree growing in our backyard.
The Earth is a wonderful friend of humanity that keeps on giving us these beautiful gifts that we do not deserve, especially with the way we treat her. Over the years she is straining to keep providing what she once gave us in abundance. Just a few weeks ago as spring was supposedly around the corner there was a week of snow that covered London, nothing like I had ever seen in the three years I’ve spent living there, especially in March.These extreme weather conditions are her reactions to the stress we put on her when all she has done is attempt to relieve us of our stress by giving us luscious green gardens and colourful bouquets of flowers.
So, in honor of Earth Hour last weekend, this week I am writing not just to suggest taking a moment to appreciate our natural world, but also to urge everybody to give it the respect it deserves so that future generations can appreciate it as well.