"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It's not." -Dr. Seuss in The Lorax
This reflection on conservation was written during week three of a four-week long backpacking trip in the Wind River Range in Wyoming:
When I am out in the mountains living out of a backpack (well a team of backpacks really), I remember what it means to live simply and tread lightly, marking the world with only a few bent blades of grass and a little greasy residue from my evening meal. I remember why it is important to walk as Thich Nhat Hanh says--with my feet kissing the Earth--because everything from the fragile nectar-filled tail of the Columbine to the hulking, jagged body of the mountain it lives on is heartbreakingly beautiful, and the crime of destroying such fierce beauty is self evident.
I become a better person out here. More of my problems are real; more of my actions are intentional. Laughter floats up freely. Generosity feels essential. To bring these qualities, and this awareness, out of the mountains and into my life of excess and rush and me, me, me--this is the challenge.
These mountains in Wyoming, and the lower crumbly Appalachians that I grew up in, do not exist in a bubble, as far removed as I may feel sitting on this lichen covered rock, mosquitoes buzzing in my ear, Indian Paintbrush catching the slant of sunset light in front of me. If we ruin the world out there, we ruin this world. They are two sides of the same coin. I can't feign ignorance. I know. I know that it is not acceptable to live a life that is complicit in the rape of the world. But most days I do.
I do not trust that technology will save us from our missteps. I do not trust that we humans will electively stop our destructive ways. And also, I do not think it is time to party while the ship sinks. A life of partying leads to bloat and indigestion…half-cocked ideas and vapid memories. If the ship is sinking, I want to go down caring for her as best I can because there is a richness in living this way that is even more life affirming for the practitioner than it is healing for the land. It is both-and.
And as bleak as it looks, some stubborn streak of optimism lives in me: that someday I will have children who will also be brought to their knees by the beauty of this place.