Life on the "Wild" Side

I've finally gotten back into the swing - the daily walk swing. During the summer and early fall seasons I spend WAY too much time indoors. In fact, with a season as busy as our last, I don't have the time (or the energy) to get out and enjoy the incredible natural resources in my back yard. However, with the changing of the seasons, I'm back outdoors and loving it.

Lately, as I've been walking along, I've gotten to pondering the 'deep' subject of why it is some people find pure (not the 'Disneyland' form) nature so inviting while others find it overwhelming at the least, maybe a little inhibiting, or, in some cases, downright frightening. I'm sure I seem as alien to those who are more comfortable in the city (or at least suburbia) as they seem to me. But, I think, in reality, 'they' are in the majority while I'm somewhere nearly off the scale in the minority.

Seriously! Take for example the folks who move 'way out' into the country. They obviously are pulled toward something. Something draws them. Most likely it has something to do with the quiet, the privacy, the seclusion. But, what is the first thing they do? They install one of those big mercury vapor yard lights (or something similar) to light up their space. My questions is: why? Why move out where you can see the stars then drown their existance? Why settle in a secluded location then advertise your presence with a beacon?

I decided it is, in most cases, a reflection of our fear. We fear nature. At first this may seem odd, but dig a little deeper and the actions of most people support my theory.

Take Mr. VanBlaricom's article from an old issue of "The Wallowa County Chieftain". Years ago when Mr. VanBlaricom wrote for this small town newspaper, he was one of my favorite contributors. In recent years the new owners have decided a more 'politically correct' approach to news casting (isn't that an oximoron?) is preferred. Thus Mr. V's contributions no longer fit.

For all his 'unpolitically correct' viewpoints, Mr. V had a major dose of good sense. In the article to which I'm referring, Mr. V tells of a 4th of July weekend excursion he took with his wife.

Before I relate his story, a little background might help. Wallowa County, Oregon is a large county of which a vast percentage is public land (BLM, USFS, State, and the like). The people made their living primarily in the timber industry (until our national forests were closed to logging) or in agriculture (hay, grain, cattle). One final point of importance was the county's draw to the tourist. Boasting beautiful scenery, grand mountain ranges, deep canyons, and lots of wide open space, Wallowa County was a popular spot for those 'escaping' the city.

With that in mind, consider Mr. VanBlaricom's story. He says, one bright morning on a busy 4th of July weekend, he and Mrs. V decided to take a drive out north. Leaving behind civilization (and pavement), they headed into the hills. The loop they were traversing covered more than 100 miles, mostly through public land on gravel roads. However, in spite of passing two or three forest service campgrounds, the VanBlaricoms traversed a completely unpopulated piece of earth.

Having seen all the tourists rolling into town for the long holiday weekend, they found this just a bit odd. Especially as the county had been hit (again) by another push from 'environment lovers' to ban hunting of 'this' or close cattle access to 'that' or protect 'these' from 'them'. So, where were all those people who so loved nature and so desired to protect it for themselves and the future generations? Here it was, the land they were protecting so they could enjoy it. Why weren't they enjoying it?

Mr. and Mrs. V pondered this question into their dreams. The next morning, they decided to set the issue aside and take a drive to the lake. It is important to note that 'the lake' was one of the county's most beautiful attractions - but, it was also one of the most 'commercialized' pieces of real estate. However, people aside, the locals still enjoyed a visit now and again. So, off they went.

To their surprise, not only did they find the lake, they found ALL the people. The lake's campgrounds were spilling over. Side by side, people were crammed into every available nook and cranny.

In the end, Mr. V came to the only logical conclusion. Although some of those folks had probably fought for (or at least agreed with) the petitions to 'save' the wild areas from . . . . - they were too afraid of nature and too accustomed to their 'conveniences' and 'entertainments' to go out and 'enjoy' it. Instead they huddled together in their comfortable RVs listening to their neighbor's TV show or the argument down the lane instead of the birds twittering in the nearby bush, the wind whispering in the trees, the hooting of a solitary owl, or the yipping conversation of a pack of coyotes.

So, what's the moral of this story? Sadly, it supports the growing realization that many people are uncomfortable with or even scared of 'pure nature'. On the other hand, I can't seem to get enough.

Don't take that to mean I'm out there looking for bears and wolves with which to have up-close and personal experiences. My hiking companion - he's BIG, black, white, and tan, and furry - was picked to help avoid such confrontations. But, I don't like hiking the road (hunting season may make it expedient, but certainly not desireable). I don't even like hiking the same trail day after day - even my favorite trails grow old that way.

I do like exploring over the next ridge or revisting a spot I haven't been in a while. Listening to the elk bugle across the lake (or up the draw) sends shivers of pleasure up my spine. I get a kick out of watching a coyote watching me. Spotting a new bird species makes my day. Even the quiet pleasure of sitting on a hillside - me, the dogs, and no one else - soaking up a few 'rays and listening to the wind's whisper, the bird's chirping, and the squirrel's chatter beats out any 'civilized' form of recreation in my book.

So, does this make me odd? In a not so distance past I would probably have been considered the 'conservative', the 'hesitant', or maybe even the 'fearful' hiker. Today, well, things are just different today, aren't they?

Lady of the Lake

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