My daily walk to work is less than a mile in each direction. Most of the route winds through our neighborhood, with its large trees and manicured lawns, while a shorter stretch passes dorms, parking lots and Greek row; crossing Providence Road, a major artery through Columbia, is the only section that requires my full attention.
This routine provides a reasonable dose of exercise but is more vital to my mental health. Often the only outdoor activity in the course of my day, the walk recharges my soul, giving me the chance to take in the sounds, sights and fragrance of the seasons. And though little open space is found along the way, the treks occur in early morning and early evening, increasing my encounters with residential wildlife; deer, raccoons, opossums, squirrels, cottontails, bats and, of course, a wide variety of birds inhabit the area.
Those who live in rural areas may scoff at this seemingly desperate attempt to find nature in an urban setting. But naturalists know that there is much to experience and understand in even the smallest outdoor environments. Besides, on my short walks I can feel the same sun that shines on the Amazon, gaze at the same moon that hovers above the Carolina shore or inhale the cold, fresh air that, just yesterday, swept across the prairies of Canada.