In our modern world, it is far too easy to forget that we are part of the natural world. Our connections to nature may drift further into our deep subconscious and mean less and less each day. However, a simple experience can refocus our spirit and remind us of how connected we truly are.

While camping in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, I was enjoying a morning cup of coffee when a Steller’s Jay alighted on a nearby tree. He looked at me quizzically as I sat in my folding chair under the pinyon pine trees. I leaned back in the chair, attempting to look as non-threatening as possible.

“Good morning,” I said quietly to him. His head cocked a few times and flew onto a branch about 8 feet above me.

He began furiously smacking his beak into what remained of a pinecone. I returned to my coffee, thinking our interaction was over. His incessant pounding continued, but he completely ignored me despite my occasional glances in his direction.

Plop! Not a foot from my chair, the remains of his pinecone landed. I looked up and saw my feathered friend looking at me. I don’t know if birds can cuss or not, but he had a “well crap” look on his face. His cocked his head a few times, appearing to measure the danger of swooping down so close to me to claim his prize.

As we looked at each other, I reached over and picked up the sticky remnants of the pinecone. I slowly swung my arm back and forth, making sure that his gaze was following the action of my hand, and I tossed the pinecone about 10 feet away from me. He looked back at me and then quickly launched to the ground some 15 feet away.

He studied me again for a moment, then began hopping toward the pinecone. He picked it up and looked directly in my eyes. Can a bird be thankful? For a brief moment, he appeared to be. Then he launched into the brush to enjoy his prize.

We are creatures of this earth, bound to the same cycle as our feathered and furry friends. Our intelligence has given us unique abilities and enabled our species to dominate this planet. Regardless, for however much we attempt to separate ourselves from our origins, we are still intrinsically connected to nature and life itself. And the further we pull our spirit from the natural world, the more isolated our souls become.

I leaned back in my chair, enjoying the steam rising from my coffee. The green of the trees, the songs of the birds, and the rushing of the Gunnison far in the distance reminded me of how fortunate I am.