She whispers my name... Only I can hear

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Reflections



In the sheerest

Of moments

She puts on a show

So impressive

Awestruck

I stand

Enchanted

I forget

What is really going on

Until

The

Leaves

Are

.

.

.

.

Falling

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Aldo

I am planning a trip to Iowa one day
More than just a trip – a pilgrimage…

While millions of people travel to Graceland
To visit the grave of their fallen idol
Elvis
I will be heading west.

Seeking a small town lost in the heartland of America
Burlington, Iowa to be exact
Somewhere in Des Moines County in the township of Burlington Lays Aspen Grove Cemetery
Somewhere in this sacred place a small stone marks the final resting place of Aldo Leopold


Photo Courtasy of Aspin Grove

No throngs of tourists
No wailing women throwing themselves on the grave
I doubt very much that there will be a souvenir stand
Perhaps there will be flowers

Native flowers I would hope…

I find myself compelled to go to this place
I was never one for pilgrimages before…

Perhaps I simply long to reassure myself
That someone like this really did exist in a real and physical sense
Not a character in a story
Not the subject of a documentary
Not an invention of the media

Just a man
Plain and simple
He lived and then he died
As we all must do

His wonderful insight continues to be, through his written word
His body now lies in this quiet corner of Iowa


When I was a child
I was already beginning to show great interest in the
environment
And for all things living
I grew up in a fishing village on
Long Island
Surrounded by the vast wasteland of the American suburbs
On one side
And the vast enigmatic Atlantic
On the other
All just a stones throw from the world’s richest and busiest city

But I spent my summers in upstate New York
On my family’s Tree Farm in Cherry Valley
Among the trees my grandfather planted
Immersed at an early age, in the
ideals of conservationism.

It was paradise for a child
I consider
myself to be among the luckiest people on the planet
For having such an
opportunity
City mouse AND country mouse all in one
That was I

I spent a lot of time with an old crippled farmer named Jack
Helping him with the chores on his tiny little farm

I learned about the animals
Cows
Pigs
Chickens
Horses
Geese
Ducks
Turkeys

More on
Jack another time…

I watched things grow
And die
Generation to
generation
Season to season

I planted trees
Pruned trees
Thinned trees

I learned to fish
Catch frogs
Find water
Make fire
Tell the time by the sun and stars
Tell the temperature
And predict the weather
By listening to insects

I connected to
the Earth
And the Earth connected to me

Now I am sometimes described
as an environmentalist
Sadly, most of the time that carries
A negative
connotation
An Environmentalist is seen as
A wacko
Revolutionary
Tree hugging
Anti establishment
Nut job
Hippie

Stemming
from a drug induced
Counter culture
Flower power movement
That began
in the sixties

Now I might just be
Some
Or even all of those
things


But first
And foremost
I am a conservationist

Earth
First
Nature first
Environment first

I did not learn these ideals
From hippies
I learned them when I was a child
From my grandfather
And my dad

The conservation movement did not begin in
the sixties
It came out of the dustbowl era of the thirties

It began
in the mind
Of people like

Aldo Leoplod
Somewhere along the line someone put a book into my hands
Different than most books I had read
And I read a lot

Over the years this book became dear to me
The concept that you could see things from the point of view of a tree
Or a mountain
Was planted in my mind

Not man against nature
Rather man - as a part of nature

That the land was more important
Than the things we put on it
That there are consequences for failing to remember this
That the consequences can be devastating

The book is called “A Sand County Almanac” and it contains some of the written works of Aldo Leopold.

Aldo was one of the last “frontiersmen” carrying forwards the ideals and traditions of the homesteaders of the mid-west
Looking out for livestock he was an avid hunter
Man against nature
Making the farm work
Against all odds

Not the kind of man you would think someone like me would idolize…

But Aldo was different
There are more than a few people on my list of heroes who got there because they put the truth above their own beliefs
Accepting things for the way they are rather than for the way they wanted them to be

People who changed their way of thinking
When confronted with a truth they had not before perceived.

Aldo was such a man. He made the transition from frontiersman to conservationist in one abrupt moment of clarity; which among other things, he wrote about.

His philosophy changed from “man against nature’ – to man as a part of nature
And he is recognized today as the father of the modern conservation movement

Both my Dad and my Grand dad were followers of this movement
As am I

Aldo not only influenced the way I think, but also the way I write
I cannot change that for he is now a part of me.

The story entitled “Thinking like a Mountain” comes from his book – “A Sand County Almanac”
It is a true story and a heartbreaking story

But it is also the story of a man making connections, seeing the world in a new way and then changing his way of thinking as well as his way of living.

He would devote the remainder of his life to protecting the environment – and to making those connections clear to the rest of us.


Thinking Like a Mountain
By Aldo Leopold


A deep chesty bawl echoes from rim rock to rim rock, rolls down the mountain, and fades into the far blackness of the night. It is an outburst of wild defiant sorrow, and of contempt for all the adversities of the world. Every living thing (and perhaps many a dead one as well) pays heed to that call. To the deer it is a reminder of the way of all flesh, to the pine a forecast of midnight scuffles and of blood upon the snow, to the coyote a promise of gleanings to come, to the cowman a threat of red ink at the bank, to the hunter a challenge of fang against bullet. Yet behind these obvious and immediate hopes and fears there lies a deeper meaning, known only to the mountain itself. Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf.


Those unable to decipher the hidden meaning know nevertheless that it is there, for it is felt in all wolf country, and distinguishes that country from all other land. It tingles in the spine of all who hear wolves by night, or who scan their tracks by day. Even without sight or sound of wolf, it is implicit in a hundred small events: the midnight whinny of a pack horse, the rattle of rolling rocks, the bound of a fleeing deer, the way shadows lie under the spruces. Only the uneducable fool can fail to sense the presence or absence of wolves, or the fact that mountains have a secret opinion about them.

My own conviction on this score dates from the day I saw a wolf die. We were eating lunch on a high rim rock, at the foot of which a turbulent river elbowed its way. We saw what we thought was a doe fording the torrent, her breast awash in white water. When she climbed the bank toward us and shook out her tail, we realized our error: it was a wolf. A half-dozen others, evidently grown pups, sprang from the willows and all joined in a welcoming melee of wagging tails and playful mauling. What was literally a pile of wolves writhed and tumbled in the center of an open flat at the foot of our rim rock.

In those days we had never heard of passing up a chance to kill a wolf. In a second we were pumping lead into the pack, but with more excitement than accuracy: how to aim a steep downhill shot is always confusing. When our rifles were empty, the old wolf was down, and a pup was dragging a leg into impassable slide-rocks.

We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes - something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters' paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.



Since then I have lived to see state after state exterminate its wolves. I have watched the face of many a newly wolf-less mountain, and seen the south-facing slopes wrinkle with a maze of new deer trails. I have seen every edible bush and seedling browsed, first to anemic desuetude, and then to death. I have seen every edible tree defoliated to the height of a saddle horn. Such a mountain looks as if someone had given God a new pruning shears, and forbidden Him all other exercise. In the end the starved bones of the hoped-for deer herd, dead of its own too-much, bleach with the bones of the dead sage, or molder under the high-lined junipers.

I now suspect that just as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in mortal fear of its deer. And perhaps with better cause, for while a buck pulled down by wolves can be replaced in two or three years, a range pulled down by too many deer may fail of replacement in as many decades. So also with cows. The cowman who cleans his range of wolves does not realize that he is taking over the wolf's job of trimming the herd to fit the range. He has not learned to think like a mountain. Hence we have dustbowls, and rivers washing the future into the sea.


We all strive for safety, prosperity, comfort, long life, and dullness. The deer strives with his supple legs, the cowman with trap and poison, the statesman with pen, the most of us with machines, votes, and dollars, but it all comes to the same thing: peace in our time. A measure of success in this is all well enough, and perhaps is a requisite to objective thinking, but too much safety seems to yield only danger in the long run. Perhaps this is behind Thoreau's dictum: In wildness is the salvation of the world.

Perhaps this is the hidden meaning in the howl of the wolf
Long known among mountains
But seldom perceived among men
Excerpt courtasy of Dead Trees