To collect themes around nature, I decided to interview my friends Sam and Brian that I already knew to have a connection with the environment, despite having developed the friendship with them in the concrete jungle of Chicago. Both of my friends in this interview appreciate the outdoors either through activities (like sports and hobbies) or relaxation.  Sam and Brian shared memories of hikes through nature in a familiar forest preserve near our houses in the northwest suburbs named Deer Grove. 

I focused on the fact that my friends and I actively pursue opportunities to go to the woods when we are all at home and this interview allowed me time to reconsider our relationships with nature and why we continue to practice this behavior. I asked myself and friends why we even started going to the woods. Brian quickly responded that since living on an urban campus (a few years ago at UIC in the dorms) did not allow us much time to spend outdoors, we were left longing for something we had previously taken for granted - green space. This was taken away from us by moving to the city for two obvious reasons: there is little open space within close proximity to practice the outdoor hobbies we enjoyed growing up as kids and we had to be more mindful of our safety living in the city - basically being on curfew at night to avoid crime that plagues the city. Sam agreed that this was a contributing factor, but he also mentioned how he enjoyed hiking to absorb all of the fresh sensations given by the woods - the clean smell the air carried, the bright colors from new growth, the songs chirped by birds and even the differing textures we felt from leaves and ground.  

Sam, Brian and I all agreed that we enjoy hiking in the woods better together. Although our senses experience the same with or without the company of others, there is something special about experiencing a beautiful thing with someone else to recall the good memory later. In addition, my friend also shared how it is fun to spend time with others in the woods to converse with and share stories. "It is the perfect, stress-free environment for relaxing while getting good exercise, and it allows us a chance to talk to one another without having any distractions," stated Brian. 

I realized from previous experiences that we pool our resources and knowledge together to observe and help identify what is naturally occurring around us. It is enjoyable for my friends and myself to recognize earth systems taking place in front of our very eyes, and see how we as humans fit into this delicate process, either in or away from nature. This, we all agree, shaped our perspective on life and even influenced what courses of study we pursued in college (anthropology, earth and environmental science, civil engineering). The more time we spend in the woods, the more we learn about the space and the wildlife in it. Sam, Brian and I are also adding to the demand for open, green space just by walking through the land and demonstrating its intrinsic value, along with the other visitors of Deer Grove. Collectively, visitors call for the area to remain an undeveloped oasis by using the space for whatever recreation or purpose they like. Sam finished by stating how his motivation for being outdoors outweighs some barriers that may prevent himself or others from enjoying the forest preserve. Sam mentioned: "…the woods can either be a scary place or a sanctuary, and for a long time fear inhibited me from enjoying the woods at night. But - with a few friends also concerned for their safety - I can explore the woods at night and we have extremely productive conversations around big, philosophical ideas. It refreshes my mind, body and spirit." 

As long as the weather remains dry and one of us has the means (a car) to travel there together, we will go despite the barriers. I believe Sam, Brian and I will always share this common interest and continue to spend time hiking outdoors.