Guest Post by Jennifer Bagley
“In wilderness is the preservation of the world.” Thoreau penned those words nearly 200 years ago, living in the wilds of Concord, Massachusetts. They still resonate. If we can’t get to wilderness, if we can’t take moments to take a hike, or row a boat, or walk through a woodsy park, then we are missing something important. Especially now, with our world so impacted by human mistakes: too many cars, too many emissions, too many people consuming too much and throwing away even more… we are ruining the world we live in.
Henry David was right… take some time to get away and see the globe as it is. “I went to the woods to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life… and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Ah, what a wise, crazy man. We in Vermont get to go to the woods at will. We ride bikes, hike trails, walk our dogs, go camping, garden happily in the dirt, and have a view of the Green Mountains wherever we live. Our mountains are democratic. No exclusive view just for the rich. The folks in the low-income valley housing get just as good a look at our Green Mountains.
Woods and wilderness are good for the soul. Listening is instructive. Did you ever sit by a pond rackety with peepers in the spring, rackety until you disturb them? Then they are silent for a very long time. But sit long enough until they get used to your presence, and little by little, one at a time, they will pop up their little googly-eyed frog heads and begin the racket all over again. It is a magic moment.
Or what about the quiet of a moonlit night in winter, when only the snow crunches loudly with each footstep? It still and silent with maybe just a whisper of wind in the pines and then, if you are lucky, far off in the distance, comes the wailing, yipping carol of a pack of coyotes, reveling at the moon, teaching its pups how to hunt, a haunting, happy sound curling up into the star- struck wintry night.
Silence is good. And instructive. That lesson was reinforced on Mist Cove one sunset evening on an island in Southeastern Alaska, I stumble over sharp rocks on the far side of a small island. A salmon and azure sky greet me. No wind. No sound. Until I hear breathing. Regular exhales and inhales. So close I look around to see who is near. No one. But the regular steady exhales continue, and out in the purple water I see a stream of hot breaths rising out of the sea. One, two and then three. Humpback whales are taking a leisurely swim past the island, enjoying the sunset just like me. Breathing creatures, mammals, just like me. Except they weigh in at 35 tons and are the majesties of the sea. I am just one small human lucky to witness their stroll. There we are, quiet, just breathing in and out as we all watch the sun set over snow-covered mountains. Another magic moment.
So wilderness needs to be preserved, and we all need to live deliberately to get outside of our little selves, and keep those magic moments intact for everyone.