Three months on the open road, nearly every day had become a life changing experience. So many Ramen noodles, mechanical repairs, Cliff bars, sunrises, sunsets, laughter, and moments of humility. This had become our life, hiking, and photography, endless trails, parks, a seemingly infinite splendor.
By the time we reached Big Trees State Park we’d been through three deserts, record high temps, snow capped mountains, petrified forests, raging rivers, and forest fires.
Big Trees lives up to it’s name. Sequoias, after all, are the largest and some of the oldest trees in the world. Walking among these monoliths is walking through time; for within their rings is a calendar dated before Christianity, Buddhism, Muslim, and the Roman empire.
Before the park opened Lauren and I strolled through the still morning. Months of exploration and photography had changed the way I saw the world. Slowly yet with intent, paying attention to the details, the lights and darks, the scents and feels. At times walking blindly to better feel the grasses, or smell the air.
As someone who’d always sought attention and affirmation I’d began to care less about peoples opinions and more about people. A cynic gradually beginning to believe there was hope. Just maybe, as a culture we could get past racism, greed, strife, and arrogance. With education, experience, and time choose a different path, care about others, waste less, and in doing so take better care of our planet, and it’s inhabitants, both man and beast.
Then I saw it, the largest Sequoia stump to date. I looked to Lauren as she stood atop it. There weren’t saws big enough, so they drilled through it with steam powered mining equipment for days. When it finally fell the stump was smoothed and used as a dance floor.
From the moment of it’s discovery it had taken less than a year for mankind to cut it down. It’s size so great it wasn’t practical to process as lumber. My heart plummeted. I know it’s “Just a Tree”, but to me it was a symbol. A symbol of what’s wrong with US. A symbol of ego, arrogance, ignorance, and greed; felled only for the sake of conquest, novelty, and bragging rights.
The previous week we’d seen fields of stumps, one of the largest Sequoia groves in the world, clear cut. Later that morning confronted by a huge tree, dead but still standing, stripped of bark Lauren read the sign, ” They stripped the bark to build a traveling display”. Skinned it alive for the sake of a side show attraction.
It could be said that we know better now, we wouldn’t do that today. And your right. What happened to those two trees enraged the general public. John Muir and others made public statements of condemnation which lead to a movement of conservation and protection. Progressively “We The People” have changed our views. But as we learn and grow this is a process must continue.
Throughout this trip I’ve seen peoples kindness, love for nature and one another. Crowds from all over the world staring at Yosemite’s water falls in awe. Every color, age, religion, background, and language, united in agreement. I’ve found Faith on this trip. A faith rekindled in my personal religious beliefs, but also a faith in mankind! A faith in US.
WHAT’S BELOW THIS LINE IS LESS OF AN EASY READ1
Unfortunately there are still those who in the name of progress or industry would burn the world to the ground, and commit crimes against humanity, for a dollar. Entire species of Rhino are extinct because enough CONSUMERS believed their horns have medicinal, curative, or magical properties. Yet, we blame the poachers. Often, poor indigenous fathers struggling to feed their family. And yes these men must carry part of the blame, but the majority of that blame goes to whoever’s buying it! If we made purchases with the conviction we judge that POACHER, the African plains would be full of Rhino. When there’s no consumer there’s no market!
Expansive clear cutting of Old Growth forest in Tasmania is leading to the destruction of huge ecosystems. Much of this timber is used for little more than paper pulp, aka junk mail, paper plates, paper napkins, and the like. The majority of what’s on the table during a child’s birthday party will end up in the trash within the hour. A pile of garbage and waste, left as a legacy for the life we’re celebrating. What would the Lorax say, who will speak for the trees?
Better yet who will speak for the weak, defenseless, and needy. In the superstition that AIDS can be cured through intercourse with a virgin, young women are not only raped, but left with HIV. Fields of landmines left throughout 3rd world countries explode injuring or killing innocent people daily. This is the world we live in, a world most Americans choose to ignore. The residents of Beaumont Texas, where I live, were shocked when we were without clean drinking water for a week after hurricane Harvey. I’ve visited countries where entire provinces have NEVER had access to safe drinking water.
Below this line is for those who proclaim to be Christians.
By the text we claim to follow we should be stewards of this planet. A calling we are not only failing, but ignoring. What does a building only open for a few hours a week need with three industrial dumpsters? What happens to all those water bottles, lesson plans, books, handouts, donut boxes, AKA PAPER PULP? Let’s not even mention the Oriental Trades, Life Way junk. Stop and think about it! Handing out prizes to children that are often made in China. A country with few labor laws, human rights, and known sweat shops. Then shipped across an ocean filed with plastic waste only to end up in the trash! I realize your tryin to show love, but there are better ways of doing so.
I realize you mean well. Giving to large organizations who work in 3rd world countries. Yet in reality many of them do little more than build mission hills, gated compounds with servants and western luxuries. Giving out American rice, and grains, subsidized by our government. Your heart’s in the right place, but giving a man rice only fills his belly for a day. Teaching him to plant, raise livestock, and providing access to clean water, allows him to no longer need help. Support local economies, build with local materials and labor forces, help places in need, until they no longer need help. Don’t expect other cultures to westernize, Jesus wasn’t a white middle class republican. Stop forcing social views and expectations upon people who often have an awesome culture. It’s ok to be different. It’s ok if they don’t except your message. Respect them, and continue helping.
I dare you to use some of your vacation time, face the fear of leaving the “safety” of home, and go meet these people first hand. Hold their children, and help work in their fields. Don’t go as a tourist, or a savior. Go as a servant. Stay in their homes, not high end hotels, dine with them, learn how to say thank you in their language. Wash the dishes if they will let you. I was never the same, and I doubt you will be either.
I spent most of my adult life in vocational ministry. I’ve seen the waste, and the ignorance, generally done with the best of intentions.
Knowing this…..today…. I still believe there’s hope! THESE THINGS TOO SHALL BE MADE RIGHT!