Friday, October 3, 2014
If you've poked around here at all, you know how much I love nature - all the sky, trees, stars, mountains, birds, meadows, beasts and tiny insects. I also love forest rangers, and especially the ranger naturalists. I think I should have been one. One of the joys of visiting a National Park or State Park for me is going to ranger programs, you know like campfires with talks about bears, moonlit nature walks, stuff like that.
There's a pretty broad selection of programs at Yosemite, even late in the season. I was a little disconcerted to attend an evening naturalist lecture by an employee of the corporation that runs the concessions at Yosemite now. She was clearly no ranger. And she even got in a little dig at the inefficiency of government agencies. But on the opposite end of the spectrum, I got to take a geology-themed walk with National Park Service Ranger Shelton Johnson. Johnson was the featured ranger in the Ken Burns documentary about the national parks, and he won the 2009 Freeman Tilton Award for interpretation by a National Park Service employee.
Ranger Johnson spoke of the geological forces that formed Yosemite, and he spoke of how long it takes geological things to transpire, how old the stones are, and what's in the dirt. He indicated that to the granite cliffs at Yosemite the 2000 year old giant sequoias are infants. In the blink of an eye, or a single frame, our human lives come and go. At the same time I was on the walk with Ranger Johnson, the wind picked up in the meadows in Yosemite's high country, and a small fire exploded into a big fire. Over the crest of Half Dome we could see the giant plume of white billowing smoke turning to brown and glowing below.
The ranger talked about how fires are just part of the natural cycle. Most Septembers bring fires to Yosemite, and the seeds of the giant sequoia never germinate until they are exposed to the heat of a forest fire. The ranger talked about transformation - how everything is becoming something else. The granite mountains become the soil; the acorns become trees or food. We become earth and star stuff.
I hate change. I hate getting old - the relative unattractiveness of older flesh, and the fact that my legs don't move as well as they used to, and the difference in the way people perceive me. I hate that things aren't the way they used to be. I hate that people and animals die and that places close and get remodeled, and that everything from children's birthdays to weddings is grossly overdone. I hate that people have given up up on comfortable clothing and natural appearances, that teenage girls wear make up and heels and push-up bras and that men remove their chest hair. I hate how polarized and uncivil politics has become.
Although I hate change, I'm thinking that I can embrace transformation. I'm not deteriorating; I'm just becoming something else. The world isn't going to hell in a hand basket; it's being born anew.