On occasion, I wonder why I blog or write at all, when everything I could possibly wish to say has already been said. After reading Nicholas Kristof's column, today is one of those occasions. One of my college professors was quite fond of saying that our entertainment functions as both a mirror and map of our culture- reflecting what we are, and showing where we will go. I think it would border on insulting to call the writings of a Pulitzer prize winning journalist entertainment, but Kristof is certainly both my map and mirror. Because of the depth and breadth of his concerns about the environment, human rights around the world, women's issues and education he often pushes me beyond the things I've considered, into a more committed, more compassionate view of the world. At other times, like today,when I've freshly returned from two weeks spent mainly wandering the woods in Belize, he reflects my own ponderings and concerns.
The greatest gift my parents gave me-one of relatively few gifts I have no mixed feelings about-was the outdoors. As an infant and toddler I was carried along on trails from Maryland all the way up to Maine. One of my favorite memories is the week we spent camping at Bandelier National Monument (my brother was about 6 months old at the time). Even in Arequipa, we found ways to manage- the dirt road behind our house led to the Chile River, and there were nights of pitching a tent in the backyard...and of course, MK camp at Shiran. My mom's parents had a farm just outside of Santa Fe- complete with horses, sheep, goats, guinea hens, doves, finches, pheasants, and a pair of Shelties. When my great-grandmother's health began deteriorating, they moved back to my grandmother's parents' farm- the Pea Patch, not too far from Denver. My grandfather is 80 and in the early stages of Alzheimer's, but with the help of the grandsons he still maintains an impressive vegetable garden. And this is why the only requirements for my dream home are a vegetable garden, a compost pile and a clothesline.
In college I kept my hiking boots and an extra pair of socks in my pickup truck at all times. Especially my senior year, I was so frequently at the point of exhaustion that an exceptionally tough microbiology quiz was enough to send me scrambling for my textbook and keys and dashing to the nearby wilderness area. My favorite weekends in Maryland were the chilly hikes around Jerusalem Mills village...usually followed by making a pot of soup.To borrow a line from my journal: "I go to the woods to know that I exist."
Or, as Henry David Thoreau put it:
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. For most men, it appears to me, are in a strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, and have somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to "glorify God and enjoy him forever."-Walden Pond
God himself has refused to answer me at times. But the trees and rocks and streams are constant -beautiful, familiar yet austere, liberating and cleansing. Nature has never failed me, and this is likely why I believe so strongly that it should be protected.