Thursday, July 26, 2012
Nature Meets Nature
I’ve been tossing this prompt around in my head for a few weeks, and have enjoyed the responses put up so far by other Lost Daughter contributors. The concepts of nature and nurture are on my mind in a particularly poignant way in this moment. I am in the process of navigating a nascent reunion with my biological father, and, if all goes according to plan, I will meet him in person for the first time ever in a few days. At the time of this writing I am at my adoptive family home where I am vacationing for a week. I am, in fact, composing this post from my childhood bedroom. Memories of nurture are all around me, and it is in this environment that I am processing my recent phone calls from my original father. We talked for almost an hour last week, and, among other things, he recommended a book for me. I immediately downloaded it to my Kindle and have been reading it here on vacation these last few days; bookish person that I am, there are few things that could have delighted me more than to have been given a reading assignment by my biological father!
But what’s mostly been on my mind these past few days in terms of this prompt is the two meanings of “nature.” In the context of “nature vs. nurture,” “nature” refers to those innate characteristics that come to us from our biological families. As an adoptee in reunion there is no question in my mind that nature in this sense plays a significant part in my life. I am similar to my both of my biological parents and to my biological brother in countless ways. “Nature” is also used to refer to the natural outdoor world in contrast with those things, such as cities, that are human created. This sense of “nature” is a big part of what has nurtured me throughout my life. My adoptive home happens to be in a geographical location known for its spectacular examples of nature.
There is a section of rocky coastline near my adoptive family’s house that is of particular importance to me. My early memories involve walking along it with my adoptive mother, stopping along the way to look for shells and seaglass. Later, in my teen years when our relationship was often less than harmonious, it was to this spot that I fled to sort out the range of emotions and experiences that come with adolescence. There wasn’t a break up or an emotional crisis of any kind that didn’t bring me to these shores. Now I live hours away in a landlocked location, but this section of nature has not ceased to be important to me. It is one of the reasons I am here now. I start to feel a little crazy when I’m away from this coastline for too long; I need to get back here every once in a while to “reset” myself.
Last week on the phone I told my biological father about my emotional and psychological connection to the shore. I explained how when I come home I walk down to the water at the first opportunity. I described how I feel when I am walking there, and how I feel when I arrive, how my problems seem to melt away and situations that defied solution click into place. Whatever has been cloudy in my mind becomes clear, and whatever has gotten off center in me comes back into alignment. When I am at the water’s edge, everything makes sense. He listened to my words and then said simply, “You are your father’s daughter.”
Funny that! I’ve never been able to subscribe to the blank slate theory, and to be perfectly honest, the whole “nature versus nurture” debate has never much interested me as a debate because it has long seemed to obvious to me that both factors play a role. How could they not? Each of my reunions has brought a clearer understanding of the nature side of the equation. If pressed I have to admit that I’m probably more like my biological family than my adoptive one, but there’s a factor of upbringing involved in this, too. I was fortunate to have adoptive parents who, though they had (and have) behavioral and moral expectations, did not place many expectations on me in terms of interests and personality, thus allowing my “nature” to emerge by way of their “nurture.”
In an adoptive life, the threads of nature and nurture are intertwined and sometimes indistinguishable. What drives me to the water’s edge? Some Scandinavian longing for the sea that I share with my biological father? Or long association and habit as nurtured by my adoptive parents’ choice of residence? We adoptees often find ourselves torn between two worlds, belonging fully in neither, but on rare occasions the opposite is true. When I am with my ocean, I am doubly at home.