We are sick and Nature is in charge. Is her wildness also our preservation?
It is not quite five in the morning and a rose colored light is starting to fill the room. I’m in Cooke City, Montana in early June 2013 with Torrey House Press publisher Kirsten Johanna Allen in bed beside me and THP author Susan Imhoff Bird asleep in the other room. The cabin is ancient and in poor repair, the bed is lumpy. We are in Yellowstone to start research on Susan’s book Howl, of Woman and Wolf and I am wide awake. I have a question on my mind. What the hell did Thoreau mean, exactly, when he said, “In wildness is the preservation of the world?”
Cooke City in a June dawn.
Next door to the cabin is a coffee shop that makes its own baked goods. The proprietor opens the door at 5:00 because she is there with her ovens preparing for the day and I know they have internet. I get dressed, grab coat, hat and iPad and head over. There is still snow in the crevices of the craggy peaks surrounding the town, just visible in first light. Wispy clouds are pink and orange. The warm smells of hot coffee and bear claws great me along with the proprietor at the cafe. She’s my age with blonde hair pulled up loosely on top of her head, busy with her baking trays. A steaming cup next to the iPad and I log on, type in my question to the oracle that is Google Search. To connect to that question, in this place, with such comfort and beauty around me and a day of wolf watching ahead is vaguely thrilling. Continue reading →
I used to downhill ski frequently. Not like a season pass holder, but 20 times a season or so. I’m in my 60’s now and have not skied for a year. But some of my long time ski buddies came to town, guys I first started skiing with in college, and I told them I would join them on the mountain today. They suggested we meet in the parking lot at Park City resort’s plaza at 7:15 AM and find a place for breakfast. They also needed to rent skis. When I asked why so early they said they were concerned about traffic. I thought, well, they are from California and don’t realize it is not as crowded here in Utah. I suggested I would meet them in the ticket line at 8:45, 15 minutes before the lifts open. Plans made.
Utah is having a long, dry, and warm fall. The region is under a massive atmospheric high pressure which is typical in the Intermountain West in the fall but this one is lasting longer than usual. The big high pressure is the same that makes for down slope winds out of the Sierra Nevada mountains and fans California’s big fires. If those guys would only rake their forests.
It has been warm but I knew there was a reason I was procrastinating turning off the sprinklers. Two or three years ago I had to replace the sprinkler system’s stop and waste valve. It is four feet or so underground and is a miserable job. I was a little worried about dirt getting into the access tube. Sure enough, when I finally got to the chore this past Monday there seemed to be too much dirt in the tube and the valve wouldn’t turn. I tried to think of ways to get dirt out of the bottom of a four foot tube but was coming up short. I finally decided I would have to dig and try to clear things out. Just as narrow a hole as possible.
Officials in San Juan County are conducting a case of political and malicious criminal prosecution against Mark Franklin and Rose Chilcoat. The case, over a year old now and not yet even in the trial phase, is already a blow against Mark and Rose and a black eye for San Juan County. They saw a nefarious way to seek revenge against Rose, who is a successful, effective conservationist, and they are getting it. Mark and Rose have accumulated over $100,000 in related legal bills defending themselves against trumped up charges for an utterly insignificant event. They suffer the stress of being falsely accused of crimes that could incur substantial fines and decades in prison. It is a travesty that court proceedings have been allowed to grind on to this point. There is, alas, more legal grinding yet to go.
It is election day and our democracy teeters on the brink.
We might have already lost it. Republicans appear willing to trash our democracy in order to keep their dwindling, minority rule, grasp on power.
Republicans refused to seat a Supreme Court justice for a twice elected and popular president. Then they rammed through an apparent sex abuser because of his credentials as a Republican partisan.
Republicans are practicing flagrant voter suppression.
The Republican Congress demonstrates an utter dereliction of duty to provide checks and balance to the White House.
The White House, unchecked, continually attacks the free press.
The rule of law is under attack. Because the FBI is pursuing abundant evidence that the Trump administration conspired with a hostile foreign power to interfere with the 2016 election, Republicans are attacking the FBI.
The abundant evidence of rampant Trump family tax fraud is being ignored.
The military is being sent to the border as an obvious political stunt.
One can add to this list.
Considering the trend and how there is no apparent bottom to what the Republicans will do and put up with, I ask myself if we should be prepared for when Trump loses the next election and there is not be a peaceful transfer of power, the hallmark of democracy.
One of the ugly features of the new Trumpian Republican Party is the tendency to frequently and blatantly lie. Trump, according to fact checkers, averages 6.5 lies a day. To cover up, he twists reality in a way known in psychological circles as gaslighting. It is a practice used by narcissists, wife abusers and dictators alike. Trump says and does things and then denies it. But it is more devious than mere denial. As Frida Ghitis frames it at CNN, he lies then blames others for misunderstanding, disparages their concerns as oversensitivity, claims outrageous statements were jokes or misunderstandings, and otherwise twilights the truth. Now Utah’s Republican junior U.S. Senator Mike Lee is giving gaslighting a shot by attempting to make Utah’s much beloved public lands out to be a conspiracy for and of some mystery “elitists.”
For “elitists” only
In a June 2018 speech to the reactionary right’s Sutherland Institute he called “Honoring the Founders Promise on Federal Lands” (you can see the full speech here) Lee stands on his head and claims that our sacred public lands are for a private elite and in order to liberate the lands for the people they must be privatized.
I recently sent this letter to my daughter, Kristen, of adventures and unexpected lessons from the observatory.
Mounting the beast (Celestron C-14)
I had an experience this week that is sticking with me as a terrific little metaphor. I am the student. The thing has cast a spell. I am pondering how to take in the message.
Last Friday Kirsten [my wife] went to NYC to the annual Torrey House distributor conference and to see her dad and sister. While she was gone I scooted down to Torrey to see if I could install one of my dad’s telescopes in the observatory, one that I had not used before. It is his most powerful scope and it is a big beast. I didn’t know if I would even be able to lift it up to the mount, slightly over my head, into its dovetail fitting. I could have used help, but Torrey is far away and I have already imposed on a willing neighbor there too much. I put on some old work gloves. I hefted the thing up, got the dovetail started, but then it jammed. Before my muscles gave out I set the scope back down and waited a while. The gloves left incongruous dust prints on the pristine instrument. Throughout the day I tried 7 more times and went to bed that night thinking I should lift weights more. I thought about it and the next morning tried a new angle. On the second try I finally got it. I sat down to marvel at myself while I gave the mount the command to move to its home position. As it did so I laughed as I realized I had put the beast on upside down.
Here in the West it is cowboys and Indians again. Or still. I believe the battle will soon turn against the cowboys.
Cliven Bundy and his deadbeat cowboy clan remain free, still owing the United States over $1 million in federal conviction fines and grazing fees, and still illegally trespassing their cows on desiccated public land. Trump came to Utah in December and signed away some two million acres of national monuments, the largest rollback of federal land protection in the nation’s history. Utah has lost the lucrative Outdoor Retailer convention. As our politicians disgracefully cheer, Gallup reports that 61% of Mormons approved of Trump in 2017.
Republican, and Mormon, land grabbers smugly celebrate breaking another promise to American Indians. Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017
2017 was a rough year for our beautiful, fragile, public lands in Utah. I look at the image above and all I can see is Utah’s Republican politicians celebrating a gang rape led by the pussy grabber in chief. I am with the Salt Lake Tribunethat the image is of Utah at its ugly worst as these quislings celebrate kicking American Indians in the teeth and sucker punching the rest of America. All in the name of . . . what exactly? Continue reading →
I keep telling myself to spend more time reading the stack of print magazines I subscribe to and to spend less time online. So on a trip this week to Seattle (destination Whidby Island) I grabbed an Economist, Harper’s and The Atlantic Magazine for the plane. I like Harper’s in particular because of the longevity of the “Easy Chair” column. The West’s Bernard DeVoto first wrote in the “Easy Chair” in 1935 about many of the same issues that remain today, like ranchers and other businesses trying to take and use up public land. In the August issue writer Richard Manning has an optimistic essay (here) that the political fortunes of environmentalists are already on the rise. In this seemingly dark hour of losses on many conservation fronts, I recommend reading it.
The public lands of Mt. Rainier, seen from the plane.
One would be excused if while traveling across the vast open spaces of the West, crisscrossed with barbed wire and with cows everywhere, one concluded that ranching and farming were a big part of the economy. They are not. Continue reading →