Gill Colorado TrailRunning

Why Does Nature Feel So Natural

Mountain Culture®
November 19, 2018

James Russell Gill III (Gill) is a professional ultra-endurance runner and owner and CEO of Bad to the Bone Sports. Together, Gill and Francesca have turned passion into a lifestyle and can always be found on top of a mountain searching for the next challenge.

I make the turn on the trail, a turn I’ve made many, many times, but today for some reason, I see more. Off in the distance is Mount Guyot, proudly standing at over 13,000 feet just outside my home in Breckenridge, Colorado. Today, the sight of Mount Guyot stops me in my tracks, illuminated by the early morning sun, surrounded by golden aspens and covered in a fresh coating of fall powder. As I stop my running stride, I immediately feel a sense of calm. This is exactly where I should be and all seems right in the world. It is at this moment that I ask myself: Why does nature feel so natural?

I’ve always been drawn to nature, but have never really explored why. With a science background, as I explore my surroundings I often have more questions than answers. Edward O. Wilson, a Harvard University entomologist, used the term “biophilia” to refer to humans’ “love of living things” or our innate affinity for nature. Wilson described biophilia as the “innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes” and his hypothesis suggests that humans are innately and emotionally attracted to other living organisms.

Furthermore, it was his belief that people are attracted to the type of environments that are welcoming to human life, so being attracted to nature is in our genes. There is no question we respond very strongly to nature, and brain research supports this empirical observation: just gazing over a natural landscape can be very calming.

Gill Snowboarding Interceptr

Gill takes in the snowy landscape. Pictured in KÜHL INTERCEPTR 1/4 ZIP

I know dragging science into something as pleasant has nature seems counter intuitive, but a little knowledge never hurt anyone! If you need more encouragement to spend more time in the great outdoors, read this quote by the influential naturalist and conservationist John Muir. The next time you feel overwhelmed by life, take solace. The answer may be right outside your door.

Take a course in good water and air; and in the eternal youth of Nature you may renew your own. Go quietly, alone; no harm will befall you. Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. The mountains are calling and I must go.

– John Muir