This I believe: That we all deserve to live on planet Earth; and that we all share a responsibility for its preservation.
I’m very fortunate; both in my choice of century and place to be born, but also in what opportunities were available to me through the years. Mountains, deserts, rivers, the Grand Canyon. I climbed mountains; ran and walked in the deserts; rafted in the rivers; and ran across the Grand Canyon, several times. All this was possible partly due to having friends crazy enough to want to do the same; and in at least equal measure, to those perspicacious enough to have helped to preserve those mountains, deserts, rivers and canyons.
I was out recently, climbing a peak in the Southern California desert: East Ord Mountain. It was a perfect day; cool enough that exercise wasn’t uncomfortable, clear enough to see for some distance. On the way up, a collared lizard eyed me from the rocks at my feet; on the way down, a Prairie Falcon soared and called, above its nest. All the way, spring flowers abounded.
For the moment, all thoughts of the rest of the world and its troubles were banished, in the continuing necessity to think of where I was going, to watch for hazards – climbing a steep slope peppered with cactus and loose rock does focus the mind – and to admire the changing panorama.
I remembered another peak climb, many years ago, with a group of people, including a young boy. He and I happened to start down a slope together; a deep gravelly slope, awful to climb up but great fun to run down.
The boy was hesitant, a little scared, but curious; so I said to him, “come on”, and took his hand. Together we ran, slowly at first, then faster, until he was laughing with glee as we ploughed down the scree slope.
It was a rare moment and – granted – a fortunate outcome, and we both learned from it.
I’ve been both teacher and taught, many times; learned my own craft in the outdoors by trial and error, and from friends. And I am so glad that the world is out there to be learned from, because these pursuits are more than recreation. They have greatly, and positively, affected my whole life.
Seeing California from its mountains; seeing the geology of the Earth in Death Valley, the Sierra Nevada, the Grand Canyon, and elsewhere; reading about the experiences of others in doing the same; all this contributes to my set of beliefs.
Those beliefs demand that I be a conservationist; one who tries to act in ways that are consistent with my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren being able to live on Earth, too.
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