Outdoor Recreation

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From Missouri Conservationist: Dec 2009

Oh, Christmas Tree!

In our pursuit of convenience, let us not lose our connection to the natural world.

Christmas trees in snowAbout a generation ago we began a transition from having a natural or “real” Christmas tree in almost every living room to where most homes now display an artificial tree. The move away from real trees has been unstoppable and is almost certain to continue. That’s because artificial trees are economical. New buyers swell the ranks of those who already own them. The numbers argue that we will someday reach a point where a natural Christmas tree is a real oddity.

My friends have gone artificial for good reasons. One was teary-eyed every Christmas until she discovered that she was allergic to pine trees. Another said that a real tree that sheds needles just wasn’t an option after she had white carpet installed in her living room. Many people reported deliberating—sometimes arguing—among family members over the decision, but after all that they went to the store and bought a tree that came in a box. No one can blame them; artificial trees are clean, lightweight, convenient and care-free. They’ve been made that way to persuade us away from choosing natural trees, which can be dirty, imperfect and a real bother to set up and dispose.

We’ve been persuaded to accumulate many artificial things. Our televisions, computers, video games, treadmills and vehicles have clear benefits. They make our lives easier, safer and, in some cases, more interesting. Like the artificial Christmas tree, however, these manufactured items increasingly push out the real or natural elements in our lives. Just consider how much of their lives people spend staring at a screen or riding in an automobile. Even the treadmill keeps us away from pounding the trails.

It’s hard to imagine living in the modern world without the goods we own, but we don’t have to let them own us. Use them as the tools they were designed to be and let them help you connect to the natural world. Log onto your computer to search for fishing, hunting or hiking spots and information. Visit MissouriConservation.org to find nearby conservation areas, nature trails and places to fish, hunt or look for wild birds. Watch some of the videos you’ll discover there to learn how to cast a fly, navigate by compass or call like a bluejay. Use your car to take you to places where birds, bugs, deer and squirrels are and where you can get out and walk around.

You’ll likely encounter rough terrain, an occasional soaking, pesky insects, slippery rocks, sticktights and a quite a bit of dirt, but that’s the stuff that makes the outdoors a place of real adventure.

—Tom Cwynar, photo by David Stonner

This Issue's Staff

Editor In Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair Terrill
Art Director - Cliff White
Writer/Editor - Tom Cwynar
Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Circulation - Laura Scheuler