"Heart Of The Wild" - Foreword
"Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter."
- John Muir
The last couple of weeks have caused my appreciation for certain places to grow; places where we can slow down, take a deep breath of clean, fresh air, and enjoy the space around us in solitude and silence. Before the travel restrictions, my wife and I took a short, impromptu trip to New York City, now home to over twenty million people. The noise and smells were overwhelming, and it seemed there was hardly any escape from the rat-maze-like walls of skyscrapers down every street we turned, with a sea of faces flowing in between; too many faces to remember, too many faces to even see. It felt like I was part of some enormous social experiment; how many people can we stuff into one place before it all goes wrong?
While we were able to have a good time, after just one weekend both my wife and I were happy and ready to be returning to our home in Utah, at the base of beautiful snow capped mountains. It had been 5 years since I had been in New York and explored the city. I realized how different I am now than I was the last time I went. The incessant noise, lights, and busy, fast paced nature of the city was no longer exciting and energizing for me. Instead, it was stressful, annoying, and completely draining. I guess at the end of the day we might all be products of our environment after all. We better choose our environments wisely.
Being mostly stuck in my house for the last fourteen days and counting has also made me extremely grateful for those kinds of places where we can enjoy space; grand vistas that stretch for miles and miles in every direction, without seeing any trace of civilization. My legs feel restless when I lie down at night, and I long for the day that I will once again be able to venture down dirt roads and wander through some of my favorite desert canyons, backpack into remote mountain basins, and sleep beneath the stars. These recent experiences have taught me the way that so many people on this Earth have now learned to live, completely distant and removed from nature. How they get through life without breaking down, without losing their minds, completely baffles me.
Over the years, it has become more important to me to spend my time contemplating, admiring, and observing places of wildness, still undisturbed and unspoiled by man. And I am deeply grateful that I have been able to do so on a frequent basis. It has helped me in a number of ways to feel more at peace, to feel satisfied with my circumstances, and to better understand the world we live in, where we came from, and where we may be going. Nothing in nature is hidden, everything that can happen--between life and death--unfolds before our eyes. Once we stop trying to make up stories that go beyond the obvious reality of the way life unfolds on this planet, trying to give meaning and purpose to everything around us, the sooner we can begin to truly live, untethered and free.
While being in the wilderness lifts my spirits, refuels my motivation, and recenters my mind and soul, it also brings me great sorrow; sorrow from knowing that more and more places like this are disappearing every day. Besides those that are fortunate enough to live in somewhat close proximity to undisturbed nature, for most of us, we have to go to great lengths both finding and traveling to these few small corners of unmatched beauty and stillness that still remain. It becomes harder and harder to find somewhere to be alone and behold wild animals, birds, reptiles, and plants in their natural habitat.
I suspect the reason these places are disappearing is because the majority of us have failed to place proper value on wildness; space, solitude, stillness, silence, and the irreplaceable excitement and tranquility it can bring us. We have prioritized other pursuits such as industry, progress, and growth, none of which have been able to make improvements on the natural world. I hope the time comes very soon when we all wake up, and we can clearly see what is happening right before our very eyes--we have been given the most beautiful home in the universe and we are mercilessly destroying it every day. I hope that we can wake up on our own before we are woken up by an abrupt collision with the grim realization that it is too late, that we have reached the end of the tunnel--the point of no return--and we have lost something that we will never be able to replace again; wild nature, beautiful and free.
Wild places, not surprisingly, are also very important if we have any desire to try and reverse the damage we have caused to the species of the Earth. Right now we are witnessing what scientists say is the sixth mass extinction, the greatest since that of the dinosaurs; 150-200 species of plant, insect, bird and mammal are going extinct every day. Right now, around 13 percent of the Earth's land is under legal protection, which is more than triple the amount that was protected just forty years ago. Ecologists believe this increase in protected land reduced the current extinction rate by as much as 20 percent of what it would have been. No matter what inventions we devise, what level of technology we reach, we will rely on the other animals, plants, and insects that we share this planet with. And even if we could, would we really want to live in a world without them? Nothing has been shown to prevent extinctions better than the prevention of human interaction and development. The more wilderness that can remain wild, the better off we will all be for it.
"While human ingenuity may devise various inventions to the same ends, it will never devise anything more beautiful, nor more simple, nor more to the purpose than nature does, because in her inventions nothing is lacking and nothing is superfluous."
- Leonardo da Vinci
During every challenge or tragedy, I try my best to find a positive outcome. The silver lining of the current pandemic that has been negatively affecting our species, is that the natural world has actually been benefiting from it all. It has finally had a chance to recover, to cleanse its streams and waterways. The lack of human presence has allowed deer and other animals to once again roam more freely. Dolphins and other sea creatures are returning to ports in Europe where they had not been seen in decades. You can watch videos of them happily swimming through the canals of Venice--where swans have also returned--on the internet. In just two weeks the thick, brown cloud of air pollution in China (that could be seen from outer space) evaporated to the point where the sky once again looked blue. And in other cities all over the world the air pollution has decreased by up to 40 percent. It will be interesting to see all of the statistics of how nature recovered once this is all over.
As ecosystems are quickly bouncing back all over the planet now that we have reduced our interaction with the environment, it is as plain as can be that we have been having a negative effect on the other billions of sentient beings around us. To me it is of no surprise that the nature around us has been benefiting from this time that most of us have hidden ourselves away, after all, it was nature that created this virus. So, as you are stuck in your home during this global lockdown, remember that you are making a useful sacrifice. Still, while the current state of nature is showing a positive upswing, the realistic side of me can’t help but ask, once this is all over, will we continue to keep it up?
"The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders."
- Edward Abbey
I assume the majority of you reading this also share a deep love for the outdoors, and this time of panic and turmoil that has kept us cooped up in our houses has also been a challenge for you. Today I hope to share with you a little bit of that beautiful world that will be waiting for us once this is all over. This gallery is my latest attempt to share the value of pure wilderness. All of the images you will see except for a few, were created in the most remote area of the lower 48 United States. A place I have grown extremely fond of in the last couple of years, and one I plan to continue exploring, not only to take pictures, but to enjoy being in the heart of the wild. I hope that these photographs will move you to both have a greater desire to experience wild places for yourself, and also to share with others the great importance of keeping them protected.
Did You Enjoy The Article?
- No Comments