Right now I am sitting here listening to some super chill music feeling quite "high" after we just chugged some quite "dirty" tasting Kava tea for my first time, over here at Kava House in SE Portland... love it!
Felt inspired today after watching a Ken Burns documentary "The National Parks: America's Best Idea," about the building of the first National Parks in America and the tremendous help by the preservationist/naturalist/scientist/author/poet John Muir and his profound influence on President Teddy Roosevelt. It was quite wonderful to learn about the life of such a kind, fervent and nature-loving man who was born in Scotland into a strictly religious household, yet who immigrated to Wisconsin, US when he was very young. Perhaps it was the frequent lashings he received from his father who made him memorize the old and new testaments of the bible or else suffer punishment, that drove a young restless Muir to look outside the confines of his strict, religious upbringing for a sense of spirituality in the vast wilderness he found in this "new world," this land of America. He feel deeply in love with the stark, dramatic, wild beauty of this untouched natural world around him and all of the bountiful "wild" life it supported.
Muir wrote, "We all flow from one fountain—Soul.
All are expressions of one love. God does not appear, and flow out,
only from narrow chinks and round bored wells here and there in favored
races and places, but He flows in grand undivided currents, shoreless
and boundless over creeds and forms and all kinds of civilizations and
peoples and beasts, saturating all and fountainizing all."
His poetic musings, comparing this natural world, of forests and mountains, lakes and fields, to the conventional Church of God, reminds me of contemporary poets and writers like, Henry Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson (whom Muir read and loved his work and later befriended). They all seemed to be touching on a profound shift in the greater human consciousness, a cry to get back to the roots of the human soul, all by way of the deep contemplation and love they found while on their journeys into the wild.
What was simply wonderful about this man was the way he so passionately devoted to, in his heart, this cause to save America's wild pieces of paradise, such as the area known as Yosemite National Park and its giant Sequoia groves, for which he so faithfully named his "sanctuary." With gigantic pillars of ancient Sequoia trees and Redwood trees, that captivated his soul and spoke of their direct connection with the heavens as they so gracefully and proudly rose up in the sky, Muir had found his life's calling. Muir's exploration of the United States, especially in the state of California, led him to a path of scientific study and deep appreciation for the natural world and the die hard purpose to preserve its gifts. He toured President Roosevelt around Yosemite, camping for several nights among the giant Sequoias and hiking up to breathtaking vistas and finally convinced him to declare areas such as this - National Parks - which would protect entire ecosystems and prevent acts of destruction. Hunting. Poaching. Cutting down trees. Mining. Urban sprawl. So much.
What struck me the most was that this man cared more for the preservation of an entire natural place than he did for the greedy corporate interests of the major modern world economy at that time. In a way not much has really changed, in fact it has only seemed to grow more intensely as time goes on. As the film spoke upon, there is a fight always happening between an inherent part of humankind that itches to change the world around him in some way. A part of man that seeks to benefit the short-term interests of number one by using the resources of the natural world around him, first by conquering it and next by excavating its boundless gifts. Take this versus the long term interests of a our greater whole - an entire eco-system - and our future generations for hundreds of years and beyond. If we are "one" with everything around us, all equally dependent on Mother Nature and her water, air, earth, purity.... how can we only think about number one, right now? There is another inherent part of humankind. A spiritual need to find a retreat for the soul. To find a place where one can go "out" into the wild only to go "inside" the self. A place where beautiful, peaceful solitude and reflection take place. It is this need, and the great, delicate balance of the "circle of life," our entire ecosystem, that must oversee and wisely protect the world we are so blessed to be born into and stop destruction from that more greed-driven, self-centered, profit-seeking part of our self, which without restriction, threatens to destroy the very planet we so deeply depend on for our own life, sustainability and future.
Muir died shortly after a decade of fighting to save the Hetch Hetchy Valley that San Francisco and California proposed to use for a water dam that would bring water to the San Francisco area for years to come, and is still being used today. Bittersweet, it is sad that Muir lost this battle, but what was not ever lost, sweetly, was the fervent devotion Muir exibited and passed on to future preservationists after him. The fact that this man is still inspiring people, like myself, is profound.
For this, I am grateful I have been blessed to live in and have travelled to so many great and majestic places around this country - John Muir Woods north of San Francisco, Big Sur, the Redwoods, the Sequoias of California and the Northwest, the Oregon Gorge, the entire west coast, Mount Rainier, Golden Ears, the Grand Canyon, Chaco Canyon, Sedona, Joshua Tree, Malibu, White Sands, the Rocky Mountains, Blue Ridge Mountains, and so many more amazing and beautiful places. If it wasn't for the caring, passionate hearts of a few before me, those places may not have been there for me and countless others to marvel, admire and love. Maybe its the Navajo in me, or maybe the poet, storyteller or artist, but the preservation of our natural world, not just America, but the whole Planet, is imperative for our survival. Not just the survival of food, shelter and sustainability but for that great and deep spiritual need in our soul for beauty, contemplation, peace, wonder and divine sanctuary.
Thank you John Muir, Thoreau, Emerson and all the great poets and lovers of Mother Nature and her beautiful wildness.