Friday, January 13, 2012
Tom Brown's "Grandfather"
When I was going to college in California, I took a survival course from Christopher Nyerges. One day he related to us the story of Tom Brown, Jr. He gained fame for his skills as a tracker. One interviewer mistakenly reported that he ran a survival school, and he was flooded with requests, so he did start teaching survival skills. His story, "The Tracker", is a fine read.
Today, however, I want to discuss part of the story of his teacher, who was called "Grandfather" even from a young age. One particular valley plays an important role three times in his life. When he was growing up, he would frequently visit that pristine valley to play. In the middle of his life, decades later, he discovered that a mining camp had been erected. The natural beauty had been devastated by all the human activity. Finally, as an old man, he visited the valley one last time, when he discovered that the intervening decades had erased much of the evidence of the exploitation. Except for a few scraps here and there, the valley was starting to look much as it did in his youth.
There is, of course, a point beyond which nature will never recover. After the last tree on Easter Island was cut down, they never came back. But as long as something remains, the natural world has a remarkable ability to heal itself, given time.
One of our most immediate tasks on the Long Ascent is ensuring that enough of the wilderness is preserved so that healing can take place.