Paste it in the head!


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I love long, lazy summer days. We're on summer hours at work so I was out of there at 4:30 today. Come home, make a sandwich and then a beeline for the deck--what could be better than a hammock and a beer, the sun and a cool breeze, a good book and the stillness of a residential neighborhood?

As yesterday's dyed rovings soak, I eat my sandwich and read Edward Abbey. Having never encountered him before, I find in Desert Solitaire the words of a philosopher and a dreamer, but not any garden-variety philosopher or dreamer. Abbey was an eco-nazi, an eco-warrior, a staunch protester of the development of America's wild spaces.

He spent a few summers as a ranger at Arches National Monument, before it became a national park. Abbey had some radical suggestions for the National Park Service, ways to ensure the protection of the natural environment, while enhancing the human experience in the parks--in a decidedly un-American manner. My favorite of Abbey's ideas? Ban motorized vehicles of any and all kinds in the parks. The Park Service would take the money saved on not building and maintaining the roads and provide bicycles and horses for campers and vacationers to use. I love that--can't you just see the horrified looks on people's faces when they are told to park their cars and ride bikes into the park instead? Brilliant!

As I sit out on the deck, relaxing in the late afternoon light, I read Abbey's musings on floating the Colorado River in the Glen Canyon region before the dam was built. His words are particularly poignant given that we are in the process of doing irreversible damage to our planet:

"Wilderness. The word itself is music...

"Suppose we say that wilderness invokes nostalgia, a justified not merely sentimental nostalgia for the lost America our forefathers knew. The word suggests the past and the unknown, the womb of earth from which we all emerged. It means something lost and something still present, something remote and at the same time intimate, something buried in our blood and nerves, something beyond us and without limit. Romance--but not to be dismissed on that account. The romantic view, while not the whole of truth, is a necessary part of the whole truth.

"But the love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need--if only we had the eyes to see. Original sin, the true original sin, is the blind destruction for the sake of greed of this natural paradise which lies all around us--if only we were worthy of it."

As I sit here, in the hammock, drinking my beer and feeling sated, enjoying the sun and the breeze and the quiet, it's hard to imagine a world gone wrong. The day to day mundanities of life take over, too, until I am hardly aware that a week has passed. It's hard to sustain the fire of indignation when there is work to do, classes to attend, meals to cook. There is celebrity gossip to distract and there are blithe self-absorbed people to worship, until it all becomes a jumble and a blur and I forget what is at stake. I love reading stuff by people like Abbey because I am brought back to the basics, the irreplicable feeling of warm sun and cool water, the joy of hearing birds calling and the wind in the trees--so satisfying.

Then I remember what is at stake.


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