Monday, September 19, 2011

National Parks--Maybe They Can Help Save our Souls

"Still what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled--
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the inperfections are nothing--
that the light is everything--that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do."
   --Mary Oliver,  New and Selected Poems

I haven't written in two weeks because my wife and I have been out west visiting relatives. We were about as far west as you could go--Oregon. One of the great things that we did while there was spend a lot of time in some of our great national parks. This country is rich in natural resources. We spent an afternoon at Crater Lake which is one of our national treasures. Crater Lake came out of a vocalnic explosion. The crater measures six miles around--and is a wonderful lake. All the people in our company grew quiet as we looked at this lake. No one said a word.

Another thing we did was visit Smith Rock which is this magnificent rock formation where rock climbers (if they are good) go wild. We walked through national forests, we stumbled on to waterfalls that were breathtaking. There is something healing about being this close to nature.

Strange, while we were out there I read Nicholas Kristof''s splendid column called: "We're Rich in Nature" in the New York Times. Kristof  hails from Oregon and he had just spent his vacation back-packing with his family in some of the wonderful natural parks in his home state. His article talks about the Republican proposal H.R. 1581 whch proposes opening up 50 million (yes 50 million) acres of federal land for logging and grazing. They call it responsible multiple uses. You might want to read Kristof's great article for yourself. It's scary to think this bill might become law.

I looked up the bill and they call it: Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011. A summary of this bill reads:

 "Releases public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BML) pursuant to the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 that have not been designated as wilderness and identified by BML as not suitable for designation as wilderness from further study for wilderness designation.

Makes such lands no longer subject to the Act's requirement pertaining to the management of wilderness study areas in a manner that does not impair suitability for preservation as wilderness."

If we give away our precious natural resources there is no getting them back. What kind of a world would it be with only concrete, high rises, condos and mountains raped and left bare when stripped of trees. You might want to read this bill for yourself. Looking out over that great lake called Crater...watching water stream down waterfalls and staring up at Smith Rock alters one's perspective. It's like Danny Glover said in the movie "Grand Canyon" (which I recommend to everybody). "Every once in a while you need to go to some place like Grand Canyon and sit there and look and look. It sorta puts things back in perspective. " In the film, Glover left there to go back to his hard life in the ghetto. We all need a time when we can turn off the TV, quit thinking about what Rick and Michelle and even what the President said yesterday. Let's keep our natural resources for that is what they are--resources which we can all draw on that heal and help our souls. Maybe if we all wandered off to some green quiet place and sit and look up and wonder it might not change the world but I have a sneaking feeling it just might change us.

Mary Oliver says it best for me:

"When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I woud almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
  but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, 'Stay awhile.'
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, 'It's simple,' they say,
'and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.'"
    --Mary Oliver, from Thirst

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