Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Progress happens when people take blind steps into the unknown. They notice that something is missing and set out to fill in the gap. They turn their lives over to figuring out how to make their vision happen, moving by trial and error through possibilities, and putting up with people unable to see what they do, or who are trying to protect their special interests.

John Muir saw sheep destroying the flowering wilderness meadows of the Sierra Nevada, worked to save them, and help create the National Park system in the process. Rachel Carson discovered the devastating effects of pesticides and alerted people to the problem. Aldo Leopold tried out different strategies for reclaiming barren land in Wisconsin and kick-started the ecology movement. Sigurd Olson worked to save the wilderness, especially the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota. Wendell Berry figured out how one could do sustainable farming, feeding people while doing minimal damage to the land. John Burroughs wanted people to see nature that exists around them, even in the city.

Stepping into the unknown involves taking risks because we don’t know where we’ll end up. Yet trying something new uncovers paths into the unknown areas of our abilities. The witness of the land prophets and elders who have gone before us tell us that this is the only way that change happens.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sitting on Porches

I like the image of my grandparents sitting on the porch after dinner, talking with friends about past events and people they knew, watching clouds slide over and shadows settle on Wisconsin as the colors of the sun set, and feeling connected to nature. Most of them grew up in farming families and were used to working with nature in all kinds of weather. Grandpa still maintained a large garden, as well as hunted and fished. Being outdoors was as natural and comfortable to him as sitting in his living room.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


When I hike in Yosemite, it’s not the destination that matters the most. It’s the journey getting there. While the view from the top of North Dome is spectacular, and I love to stand where three canyons meet, it’s along the trail that I discover something new and have the chance to interact with it. When I stumble into a small meadow, I linger and explore the landscape, its wildflowers, chipmunks, and birds. When I notice an old path leading off, I follow that and find myself at the edge overlooking the valley.

I want to be open to the moment and allow the unexpected to happen and teach me something that I didn’t know existed. When I’m reading and a paragraph blows me away, I want to set the book down and figure out why it has moved me, then let the words ruminate inside for the rest of the day so that I can let it lead me further. It might take me a year to read a good book this way, but I will understand a great deal more. I should read nature at the same pace.