Now that I am back home, I find it is not enough to be in the presence of the mountains, or in the same state as the redrock desert. I want to engulf myself in them. I dream more about the few remaining wild places left to us now than I ever did in the dense Doug firs of Oregon. I want to be in distances that swallow me. Vast open space that let’s the mind imagine endless possibilities of freedom. I feel resentment towards the asphalt covering every inch of land in this city. I resent all this development for development’s sake. I resent miles of empty strip malls and hundreds upon thousands of people who just don’t give a damn.
It’s strange, because while I was in Oregon, in the middle of miles of forest, I missed the fast pace of the city, but after two years in the s l o w n e s s of Nature, I am agitated by it. No one here seems to know how to slow down, take a moment to observe the skyline, appreciate what’s beautiful in their own lives right now. It’s as if we distrust our own thoughts in the city. We might actually realize we’re not happy with the go-go-go, work-work-work, digitally leashed hell we’ve created for ourselves. And yet, even in the middle of all this, there is still a river that was my childhood counselor, barely recognizable, but still flowing and birds still sing there.
This is the land of my birth and my spirit. This is the country I wish to raise my son in and teach him what it means to love Nature. Can that happen here? Can I still be close to the family I was born to and in the land that revives my soul? Shall we stay? Shall we go South? North? West? East? I dream about places with names like Sawtooth, Cedar Breaks, Calf Creek, Mesa Verde, Moab….Wyoming. I love Ogden, but I am afraid for it. I am afraid of what the descendants of my ancestors are doing to this land they themselves call Zion. I wish my fellow Utahns were half as creative as the Oregonians are about their homeland. What will be left for our children if we keep devouring the land with our voracious gullets merely to line our pocket books with momentary, fleeting monies? Shall we betray ourselves like Judas for thirteen pieces of industry? Rape the promised land to drill, baby, drill? It makes me sick. Every generation has some terrible aspect of it’s own greediness, it’s own lust, cruelty and ignorance that haunts them throughout history. Ours will be that we let the very best of our world disappear because we were too lazy to be bothered to save it.
When will we realize that wilderness is our salvation? When will we wake up to what we’re doing to ourselves?
“Wilderness is the raw material of which man has hammered the artifact called civilization…The rich diversity of the world’s cultures reflects a corresponding diversity in the wilds that gave them birth…”
~ Aldo Leopold, 1949
We are not alone on this planet, even though our behavior at time suggests otherwise. What we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves. I am afraid because there are so many young people now who do not know how to play, unplug, run, make-believe. As the wilderness goes, imagination dies with it. It is time for courage now. Courage to save what is worth saving. Courage to look momentarily foolish in the face of “progress,” to be remembered by the rocks and sands of time as someone who said, “Enough!” And if nothing remains of my name or that I was here to say these things but the Grand Canyon, what a monument!
I am ambitious. I am very ambitious. I wish to climb the ranks of those who had a burning passion for place. Who had a fire in the mind believing it possible to read, dance, paint, or write the world differently. The vision and play of those who understand the transformative power of the wild.
“Strike the match.
Stare into the flame.
Dare to be burned by the heat of our own ambitious hearts.”
~ Terry Tempest Williams, 2001