The sleeping bag folds over my body as I look through the mesh panel of the tent roof; the treetops silhouetted a breezy black against the starry sky of an Appalachian ridge top. A nightingale sings in the night to an audience of dwellers of the dark: fellow winged friends, tree frogs, deer, scurrying forest floor inhabitants. My eyes weigh heavy and thought gives way to carefree. Before long I slowly fall into the realm of dream.
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.” – John Muir, Our National Parks
I often think of how a night living with the trees, sky and animals of “wildness” might influence the political state. When we recognize our smallness, will we be so quick to declare war, not only on ourselves, but on the natural world? What does Earth feel when it is ripped apart by strafing missiles and heavy bombs?
Where does all that energy go? How does it reverberate back to us? If those running government houses around the world spent one weekend a month listening to the rhythms of the planet, and if they bowed down to the greatness, a greatness that attests to an understanding of a higher power, however defined, will they not want to work to guarantee the passing along the greatness to future generations? What will we say to our unborn grandchildren when they inherit our waste?
I wake in the night to the sound of silence. The world outside my tent is darker than when I was awake earlier. A few clouds block out some of the starlight. My wife sleeps beside me, peaceful in the state of rest. Is there anything greater than this? Stepping out of the tent, I walk a few steps away to relieve myself of the cup of tea I had by the fire a few hours before.
John Muir was a visionary. He helped us all see “that wildness is necessity.” No matter the conveniences of the ice-cube making refrigerator/freezer and the remote control, we go seeking the pull of a campfire in the wooded night, the deep satisfaction of tired bones from walking on trails, the peace and contentedness of viewing the setting of the sun. Our National Parks are visited now more than ever. Clogged with cars and smog, and wild animals eating from trash cans, our parks serve as a desire, a wish, to find whatever it is that we need…what we cannot get from our day-to-day lives. Are we seeking “home,” like Muir says? Is our need the “wildness” Muir speaks of? If we look to nature as a “fountain of life,” how do we condone its destruction? Would we not work to find better ways to live in closer communion with the natural world?
Don’t we want to become the water flowing through the fountain, a natural fluid stream of one-ness with the earth fountain?
(written 25 June 2006)