This I Believe

John - Wilson, Wyoming
Entered on May 14, 2007

I believe in the natural world. To me the natural world is the earth and the forces that shape it. I think I’ve always known this but it came back to me last April floating down the Yampa River in western Colorado.

I’ve spent a lot of the last 57 years outdoors. Camping and skiing with my parents, hiking around the Wind River mountains in Wyoming with my grandfather for months when I was 10 and mostly working outside. My dad and his father were both geologists so weird rocks and topographic maps were often carried and contemplated.

Then in junior high school my class went on a 4 day raft trip. 5 years later I was a raft guide on that same river. A couple of years later I was paddling a home built kayak through the Grand Canyon. I spent most of the next 25 years running whitewater rivers around the world.

On the Yampa last April we were rowing our rafts and kayaks down the river just to be outdoors for a week. We were 2 families, 6 people with food and shelter and of course maps that showed the rapids and canyons. One day we hiked out of the main canyon to an overlook that I had an old picture of. The view was amazing and the kids were happy to hang out and read books and eat their sandwiches. I took pictures trying to match the old photo.

I noticed there that I was happy and that my world made sense. I’m not sure if this was a religious experience but I am sure that I am part of the natural world and that I belong here.

I didn’t intend to make a religious statement in this essay, but I worry when I read that some aspects of current religious teaching discredit or deny the existence of the natural world. Geology, fossils, tree rings and ancient ice cores are the record of an amazing ongoing reality; the creation and evolution of the natural world.

In the Grand Canyon you can put your hand on a seam between two layers of rock that differ in age by 1 billion years. That is enough time for continents to drift, mountains to form and be eroded down to sandy beaches. It’s a big story and I love learning it and being part of it.

Does this make me a pagan sun worshipper or a Luddite? I don’t think so. I have an iMac and 2 titanium hip joints. I do think that the natural world is our past, present and future. We need to learn about it, embrace it and protect it.