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The Wild Places: A Moment with Bill Reflection
My Thanks to Dan Fogelberg
Let’s begin our journey with some lyrics by that great songwriter, Dan Fogelberg, from his song “Wild Places.”
“I was walking alone, through the lofty San Juans
With a heart full of light, and a head full of songs
I was thinking of time, and how much it will cost
To recapture the souls, that we surely have lost
In the cities and towns, there are millions who dream
But the traffic's so loud, that you can't hear them scream
There's a Heaven on earth, that so few ever find
Though the map's in your soul, and the road's in your mind.”
And now let’s explore!
They Call to Me
When did it all begin? Where did it originate? Is it simply a matter of DNA, this love of nature and desire to see round the next bend in the trail? As hard as it is for me to fathom, there are some who have no desire to cross a mountain stream, or stand upon the peaks with clouds below you, and a sky so blue as to defy definition above you.
Being an adopted child means possessing a certain cluelessness about ancestry. Did my family cross the country in a covered wagon? Did they trap for furs in the cold mountains streams? Did they feel the inner itch and answer to the calling? Is that where it comes from, this need to climb upwards with heart pounding and chest heaving?
I know not! All I know is the desire has always been with me. Rainier has always been a lover, calling from a distance, demanding my attention. The Cascades, the Olympics, they have always whispered to me in the night as the shadows receded from view and darkness blanketed my world. “Come to us, Bill,” they have said. “We need you among us,” they have implored, and as soon as I was able I answered them.
My first hike, with friends, was when I was sixteen. I climbed Mt. Rainier for the first time when I was twenty-two. Over the last fifty years I have probably hiked a thousand miles if not more, and my only regret is the mile still left un-hiked. I’ve shared a hillside glen with a grizzly, both of us eating berries while cautiously eyeing each other from what I hoped was a safe distance. I have scrambled rocky cliffs with mountain goats, howled at the moon with wolves, listened to owls and their mournful cries, fed prairie dogs by hand, stood in awe as an eagle soared on the thermals, and laughed till my sides hurt as baby foxes wrestled under a towering fir.
They Call to You
Lie down in an alpine meadow and close your eyes. Listen to the purity of nature as it embraces you, engulfs you and reminds you of your roots. Take your boots off and dip your toes in a brook that has flowed continuously for thousands of years. Inhale air so pure it will bring tears to your eyes.
It is all there waiting for you.
The wild places call. Are you listening?
The mountain mist rises over the Great Smokies. Cranes dip for a meal in the Louisiana marshland while yellow trout snatch flies from the surface on a cool morn. Jays play tag, weaving at full speed in and out of maple branches in the Green Mountains.
Liquid purity flows from the Canadian hills, crosses the border and joins the Mighty Mo’, flows and quenches, irrigates and navigates, finally depositing one vital step in the water cycle into the Great Gulf where it mixes with salt and brine, eventually lifts into the air, circulates and becomes a storm, and dumps its bounty to the earth to continue a process older than mankind.
Have you ever seen a thousand acres of wheat blow in the wind? Have you ever heard a corn field crinkle on a hot summer’s day? Have you watched fireflies on a warm evening? Have you cupped earth in your hands and smelled the richness as history decomposes before your eyes?
To the west the giants soar, monoliths and their ramparts, licking the sky, unforgiving, awe-inspiring, brutal and yet oh so beautiful, this is nature unleashed and uncontrolled, turbulent, violent and yet, majestic. The deer, the elk, the bison, the bear, all home, all wary, all searching, like you, for the way to coexistence.
From sea to shining sea, it is yours to enjoy, yours to share and, in truth, yours to destroy if you should choose. We have been given a precious treasure to protect. Will we? Can we shrug aside our basest nature and answer the calling of our finer angels?
Walk with Me
Take my hand and walk with me
Through fields wet with dew and dappled by the sun
Gasp at sights on bended knee
In reverence we will pray for wisdom from the One
“The map’s in your soul, and the road’s in your mind.”
It is there for us all, but for how much longer? Our lifetime? One more generation? Two? Or can Mother Earth shrug off the harm we have done and continue without our caution or stewardship?
How do we find the balance? Resources are needed for a growing population. Needs vs wants, the eternal struggle, bigger homes, bigger lawns, greener lawns, topple those trees, cement that valley, all in the name of progress, but who is progressing and who is falling behind? Seven-point-two billion needy plunderers, then seven-point-three, then….and every single one of them tip the scales and disrupt, corrupt and bankrupt. So where is the answer? Who among you has it? Stand up and share it with us all because we desperately need guidance and wisdom before we permanently screw the pooch for all future generations.
If I say “business wins,” who agrees with me? Let’s just keep building and damn the consequences. Who cares if there are parks? Who really needs greenbelts? There’s money to be made so who cares if you can’t breathe the air?
If I say the “environmentalists win,” who would board that train? No more construction, take care of the planet first and man second, save the whales, save the spotted owl, save the red-crested blue-gilled salamander and to hell with progress. Is that the path we should wander down?
You see, it ain’t easy, is it? I’m all for nature, but I also see the reality of either/or and that’s a no-win for us all.
So we once again drop to our knees and beg for wisdom, beg for answers, beg for balance and compromise, compassion and common sense.
Breathing a Big Sigh
Take my hand and walk with me
Through concrete jungles bleached and choked by commerce
Gasp for breath on bended knee
In desperation we will pray help us please.
“Though the map’s in your soul, and the road’s in your mind.”
When did it all begin is not the question I should be asking myself. How about “how can I pass it on to others?” Maybe that’s more pertinent….
2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)