When I was in high school our Ecology club did something against the grain. Our Senior Year, instead of buying sections of the Senior Walk for our signatures, we bought sections of the walk and planted trees.
Planting trees was our way of making both a statement and defining who we were. We didn’t want to be remembered by meer signatures left in inert concrete. Rather, we wanted to leave something more lasting that would hopefully live on long beyond remembrance of who we were. We wanted to leave a legacy upon this Earth and pass on something of meaning and value. It’s been many years since that time but the desire to continue that quest has remained with me.
As I write and reflect about all of the wonders I see when I look at life outside my window the creation sings to me. There is so much to glean from all of nature around us. It’s no coincidence John Muir wrote such statements as:
“In God’s wilderness lies the hope of the world – the great fresh, unblighted, unredeemed wilderness. The galling harness of civilization drops off, and the wounds heal ere we are aware.”
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountain is going home; that wildness is necessity; that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”
“I care to live, only to entice people to look at nature’s liveliness.”
“The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.”
“Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.”
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”
“God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.”
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”
“One may as well dam for water tanks the people’s cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man.”
“The gross heathenism of civilization has generally destroyed nature, and poetry, and all that is spiritual.”
“There is that in the glance of a flower which may at times control the greatest of creation’s braggart lords.”
When I reflect on a lot of this I can’t help but wonder if perhaps we would have all been better off had we stayed farmers? Way back when living was more basic, the task of procuring food and shelter for each day seemed to give us a closer connection and bond to our immediate surroundings. It was a matter of survival to maintain a constant relationship of contact with nature. As we’ve become more technologically advanced and mastered the art of consumerism, in its truest consumptive sense, we seem to have distanced ourselves from the links we share with nature.
Today, being outdoors or in a forest is as alien an experience for many people as being a space explorer. People, especially children, have become disconnected with nature. In the abundance of ‘things’ and technology we now have generations ignorant and fearful of the natural world. Being away from a shopping mall or phone for any length of time to many young people is a frightening thought.
We need to get reconnected. When I take time to look outside my window, I leave the consumptive market driven pace our society has evolved into. As I take in some of all the life that is happening, I get reminded by the passing dragonfly or the flitting butterfly of what is truly lasting out there. I see and sense things which revive my hopes and spirit in this world. The thoughts and words of people like Muir and Leopold make me wonder if perhaps we’ve all come full circle. Like the very cycles of everything living in this biosphere, have we come back to be faced with some of the same issues and consequential decisions about how we live just as Muir observed? Maybe some things never do change.
“Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher”standard of living” is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free. For us the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television, and the chance to find a pasque-flower is a right as inalienable as free speech.” — Aldo Leopold (1886-1948)