Wild nature and braving it

Submitted by Steve Ulvie

Just to be clear, I am an unabashed and unapologetic nature freak. A posey-sniffer, stump-sitter, cloud-gazer and tree-hugger fortunate to have spent 4,000 nights in the deep woods.

It is not complicated. Some of us experience a profound solace in being in the natural world. For a very long time in human history there was no arbitrary separation between humans and nature. Today one has to make an effort to find solitude and separation from the hubbub and confusion of metastasizing civilization. Time in the Big Quiet for the informed, reinforces a sense of humility and respect for the immense community of biotic life to which we are inseparably linked.

Now well beyond basic survival, we must come to terms with why we, among all sentient beings, now know of the inner workings of what is immense and distant, as well as the infinitesimally tiny processes within and around us.

My early years were infused with restless excitement in summer camping, fishing and family time around granite shored lakes in the central Sierras. Thankfully, the only technologies of distraction then were a watch and compass. Later, my seriously wayward teen years were re-booted by meditation practice and more strenuous backpacking/hitchhiking forays across the western states and provinces to balance the incessant social upheaval that was the Bay Area in the late 1960s.

Human memories are short, likely hardwired that way. Socially we seem to prefer to blur the past, not embrace it for the hard truths and lessons that it exposes. Consider that just over a 100 years ago this San Juan archipelago was nearly as wild and rich as coastal Alaska is today. However, even the illusion of wildness or naturalness such as we enjoy here today, can still provide life-affirming insights and a sense of belonging leading toward living with purpose.

I feel very fortunate not to be young today. I stew more than I should about the turbulent future that we are bequeathing our grand children, and theirs, and theirs in turn. Incredible opportunities I have known are all but gone. Aldo Leopold in the 1940s nailed it with ” I am glad I will not be young in a future without wilderness” and ” what avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map?”

If you believe that wild landscapes are transcendental, please join us (bring your offspring!) at the library August 3rd, 7 pm to hear from an adventurous father and daughter from rural Wisconsin, who sought meaning and stronger bonds in three lengthy forays into the wilds of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in north-eastern Alaska.

Braving It is Jim Campbell’s fourth book and prosaically describes their experiences together. His portrayal is honest, chockfull of gritty undertakings and yet subtle in describing the effects of taking risks and fostering co-equal reliance in wilderness, thereby instilling confidence and inspiring his intrepid teenage daughter, Aiden. A book signing will follow in conjunction with Griffin Bay Books.