Sunday, January 2, 2011


When I was a young kid, my family would take camping trips into the mountains of California.  As I grew into the awkward adolescent phase, we moved to Arkansas – where I was lucky enough that a mountain that I could explore at my leasuire loomed behind our neighborhood.  As an extra bonus, my aunt and uncle took a yearly two-week camping trip at Lake Ouachita State Park and always invited us along.

These trips greatly affected my thinking – in understanding that there was more to the world than just myself. There are fish as big as school buses swimming in our lakes (whether or not this is true – I was told this as a child probably by my Uncle David); there are birds that eat the unfortunate animals our automobiles kill; and there are trees that nourish our souls with their shade. I believe that subconsciously it was these experiences that allowed me to (with relative confidence) quit my job in the big city and head out to one of the last great wilds – Yellowstone National Park.

Since I have arrived here a few short months ago, I have felt a transition within myself – a growing of respect for the natural community around me. I can sit in awe at the beauty of one single spot and notice the hole under a tree that is probably home to some small forest creature, the nest in the tree with baby birds chirping for food and a fresh water puddle nearby that is a precious water resource to all of these animals and more.
When Graham and I took our road trip around, I was often caught wondering how so many people for so long just chopped down trees with the goal of conquering the land. However, it is only through the history that our world has endured that I am able to live the life that I have – a computer and internet where I can communicate my ideas, clean water and food to nourish myself with, and the ability to explore with comparable ease.

I recently read the book Wilderness and the American Mind, which is about the change of perceptions in nature from ancient Greek and Roman times to present day. (I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the history of how we view nature; however, it is a college dissertation so can be a bit dry at times, especially for someone not truly interested in the subject.) I am thankful for all the people who fought to have the few islands of “wilderness” left that allow for an escape back from which civilization came.

There is a paragraph in the last chapter, which tries to sum up and round out the previous 400 pages that I feel fits what I have grown to feel while being fairly removed from civilization:  “What wilderness provides is precisely this ‘time out’ from the civilized juggernaut. Its presence reminds us of jus how far we have distanced ourselves from the rest of nature. Wild places, remember, are uncontrolled, ‘self-willed,’ where the ‘wildeor’ are. We didn’t make wilderness; it made us. In it we stand naked of the built and modified environment, open to seeing ourselves once again as large mammals dependent (at the real bottom line) not on our technological cleverness but on the health of our habitat. This is where wilderness assumes not only ecological but ethical value. Because this is country we don’t own or use, we are open to perceiving its intrinsic value. The concept of wilderness helps our kind better understand the rights of other kinds to a place in this planet’s community of life; the actuality of wilderness provides that place. By definition we don’t dominate wilderness, and so it suggests the importance of sharing, which was, after all, the basis of the ethic of fair level, fair play or unselfishness seems to many to be the key to effective global environmentalism. This kind of ecocentrism is not ‘against’ humans; it transcends them and subsumes their interest in that of the larger whole.”

I had a friend who recently moved to New York City who told me that her life had just become to busy to try to retain that friendship. (I mean this as no reflection on her – just as an observation that I see in life in general and of myself in the past.) I see that a lot of people in cities are so self-centric that they are oblivious to the much larger world that is occurring beyond their few blocks of life that they maintain. On the other hand, I have a few city dwelling friends that remain accutely aware of their surroundings (even if not daily, but still inspire).  I want to constantly remind myself that I am part of a community called Earth and I never want to be to busy to help nourish any small part of it.

1 comment:

  1. Aw- I love and miss you so much! I'm seriously going to try and make it out there soon... no matter where you're living at the time. (You nomad, you!)

    I'm so sorry to hear about "the friend"... give me a call if you want to talk about it!

    Having lived in Chicago my entire life, and having all of my close relatives here, I can never move out to the country and experience all the beautiful things you are experiencing. I'm just not able to let go of that, which I'm incredible grateful that my extremely brief move to PA made me aware of. Instead of staying on there, my eyes were opened to how much I not only appreciate other places, the wilderness, nature... but of my home and those that I love. It's a comfort knowing that even though I might not be meant to live somewhere wild, that it's always there for me to visit.

    Call me soon!!!

    (P.S. I love your pics. :) )