All of us are feeling the uncertainty of our circumstances acutely right now, with daily routines disrupted and future plans on hold, but when we’re honest, we acknowledge that this is always our condition.
Where do we find the fortitude to step, with confidence and grace, into uncertainty?
Sigurd Olson believed that we find it in the intangibles—in experiences that stir our emotions and affect us deeply, in experiences that bring us in touch with silence, cyclic rhythms, and natural beauty. It is these experiences, Olson maintained, that influence our happiness and make life worth living. They allow us to find ourselves and to regain our dignity and fulfillment as humans.
My colleagues and I agree with Olson, but we find ourselves living in a society that often prioritizes the tangible over the intangible, promising happiness and fulfillment through material goods.
To counter this societal bias, we created Intangible—a publication devoted to sharing experiences that stir our emotions and that bring us in touch with the rhythms and wonder and beauty of the natural world.
When colleagues and I gathered last year to envision this new publication for the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute, none of us would have imagined that we’d bring the first issue of Intangible to press in the midst of a global pandemic. But, here we are. Working remotely. Stepping forward.
In our first issue, Kathleen Dean Moore writes about “the collision of beauty, distance, and fear” as she wakes to the “wondering joy” of a new dawn. Jenny Anderson writes about the heart-skipping excitement of sharing the outdoors with her young son. And Ambreen Tariq shares how her experiences in wild places gave her the confidence to reach out and connect, even in the face of racial isolation.
The mission of the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute is to ensure that people continue to experience and value wildness and wonder. Twice a year now, we hope that the words and images artists contribute to Intangible will help all of us to remember, as David Backes writes, that intangibles are “at the heart of everything.”
Alan Brew is the executive director of the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute.