My Beautiful Wickedness


Yes. This is what I wanted to say.
July 8, 2007, 9:40 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Seahorse, over at Beauty Offensive, has written a brilliant post about LiveEarth — well, really about the difference between sitting indoors watching the television on which pop singers were plugging their songs and occasionally delivering lame talking points they just memorized five minutes ago and actually experiencing the live earth in a neighborhood park.

Another blogger, Chris Clarke, also made me think of the commodification of environmental experience on his post about the overcrowded climbing route to Half-Dome. Though you should go over and read the whole thing, I’ve extracted a bit of it here that gets at my larger point (I promise that I do have one):

There’s something I wonder about with the majority of Yosemite tourists, the Half Dome climbers emphatically among them. I wondered the same thing this week about the idiot fasting hiker just expensively plucked out of the Los Padres National Forest when his marketing-degree-related vision quest went badly and predictably wrong. I wonder whether the Los Padres rescue, and the majority or people shuffling up Half Dome in their cotton shorts and tennis shoes, could identify, to the species level, a single living thing they walked past on their way. I’m not even talking Linnaean binomials here. Common names. “Redwood.” Steller’s jay.” “Interior live oak.” In dark moments I wonder what percentage of Half Dome hikers could identify the type of rock on which they clamber, and that’s even giving partial credit for the incorrect answer “granite.”

He goes on to add that he would love to see an entrance exam where some knowledge of the place and its creatures would be the price of admission, a way to “turn Half Dome from a jungle gym into a habitat” as a way of enriching the experience.

And finally — to complete the odd things juxtaposed together that make you think something — Ginger’s picture of her daddy’s farm, a touchstone place that is rich in meaning for her and her family, though not “natural” like HalfDome or “built” like the park in Great Britain. There’s a Kentucky cabin that has been our extended family’s home since the 1790s. I can hear the whipporwills as clearly in my memory as I can hear the scrape of the upper room door. I know what it is to love a place where kids and crops and hell has been raised.

What binds these three disparate commentaries together is the will to see a place and be of it. Chris favors places that require physical stamina and patience to get to, places that the tourist won’t see; Seahorse has opened a world in the compass of her daily round. Ginger refreshes herself in a place well-known to her. But all of them have made the decision to be aware and maybe to be changed by their relationship to the place they are at.

I know that people engage with the rest of the living world in all sorts of ways. It’s clear to me that while I might crave the pale greys and greens of high places and the dark shaded sounds of water dripping on the forest floor, most of my time has to be spent on groomed trails in second-growth forest — my family, my job, my current state of fitness would make it hard (and sort of irresponsible) to take that month-long multiple-portage trip that would give me a Chris-level getaway experience. Friends with disabilities of various sorts do not associate love of nature and the feats of physicality that mark most X-treeeeme enthusiasts — their hearts quicken with the quiver of the aspen in the long afternoon sunlight, even if they see it from the berm.

So, I guess all this is a long way of saying that changing to CFL lightbulbs and refraining from laundering hotel towels is not really going to get it. Go unplug. Go outside and pay attention. Learn your corner of the world and make it your home, learn its ways and be surprised when it changes. Make an effort to learn the names of things.

Then you won’t need Madonna bleating at you to change someone else by loving yourself. The change in you will be sufficient to the task at hand.

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3 Comments so far
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One of the guys at Scholars and Rogues summed up my response to Live Earth better than I could when he said that this concert will save the earth the same way Live Aid ended poverty in Africa.

Shortly before I moved to Iowa, I went to Yellowstone with my family. I was walking alone one morning and came up to a creek. It was a couple of moments before I even noticed the moose cow standing a few feet from me. I know this sort of thing is almost cliche, but I locked eyes with it for a moment and then it dismissed me as either threat or a significant element in its universe and went back to drinking. It is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever experienced.

Comment by Gerald

Having been:

Hauled like a sack of potatoes to the top of a small remote island in Georgian Bay…

Driven up to the summit of Mt Evans in the Rockies in both day and evening hours, and spent a great deal of time on Lookout Mountain, Boulder Canyon and Garden of the Gods, all while being the personification of the Anti-Hiker…

*Everybody* regardless of fitness level…

Get out and feel the wind, be pestered by mountain goats, walk the woods, swim in some water, or just sit in the sun and listen to the ducks, and squirrels and stray cats in the neighborhood if you aren’t fit enough to be extreme…

And if you are fit and ready to do the big things, go *do* them, because the way we’re going, even if we do all the right things…who knows what comes next…

End of rant, sorry…

Comment by imfunny2

[…] big hugs and offers of coffee?) are all the smart people weighing in at Bridgett’s place. Most of her posts are awesome, of course … but some spark commentary that’s just mindblowingly […]

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