Thursday, February 28, 2013


It’s zero degrees this morning, as if there was no temperature outside.  The world is postcard still.  Nothing moves.  The air is crisp and I breathe it in slow, not wanting to freeze my lungs or disturb the presence.

Steam curls from rooftops in the neighborhood as if I’m living in a small village and everyone is cooking breakfast over fires. Thick snow covers the road and my mailbox.  Black tree trunks brush haiku across the white canvas.

The heavy snow blankets the woods behind my house with silence.  No birds are at the feeder of sunflower seeds. No deer have followed the creek’s path up to paw through the white crust looking for green plants to eat.  No owls meditate on the branches. Beneath the snow, mice and woodchucks sleep.

Zero is a door between death and the living.  What will be born in me today?  What will die?

The dawn rises pink on the frozen horizon, shifts to yellow, and slowly warms the air from nothing to eight degrees.  The crystalline world sparkles in the sunlight. Crows slide across the sky, their black wings glide on the frosted air. 

A cardinal sweeps to the feeder, his red feathers bright against the white background.  Another cardinal.  One drops into the snow to retrieve a seed and is buried for a moment to its neck.  Wrens come, then chickadees, and a Downey woodpecker.  Their sounds return life to the brittle woods.

I shiver in my coat and gloves until the stillness moves inside, along with the quiet of the beautiful cold, then follow the calligraphy tracks of birds into the wilderness inside.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Wilderness Questions

When I sit on the side of a mountain in the Sierra Nevada watching clouds journey across the sky, I ponder thoughts and questions that come to mind:

Skyscrapers have been compared to mountain peaks, and when we first see them, we look at them with awe.  But if we keep looking, they begin to seem common, one-dimensional, and uninteresting.  Unlike mountains.

Can great city parks like Central Park in New York City and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, which were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, a big fan of Yosemite, ever be a replacement for natural forests?
A temporary substitute, maybe.  Replacement, no. 

Is any other large tree as impressive as a Giant Sequoia? 

Do people need the wilderness to remain wild?

The wilderness was formerly thought of as a forsaken place.  Why?  Because no humans were around to give it value?  Because the wilderness had no material value that humans could exploit?  Because any humans that were there were specks in comparison to something enormous?

What unfulfilled needs do national parks address?  Did national parks only become good when humans needed an escape from what cities had become?

Today many people find spirituality in nature.  Is this because of something that is in nature or because of something that is lacking at home?  Are natural landscapes that are untouched by humans sacred?

Does affinity for the wilderness stem from the landscape in which one was born?  Do people who grow up with four distinct seasons like to camp more than, say, people from San Diego?

If an environment can kill you, does that make it more real?

Does waiting for the sun to rise over the hill, cooking over a campfire, and watching the stars at midnight make you dream of matters more ancient than your birth?

When you stand on the bank of a river, do you feel lonely, thoughtful, or renewed?