Thursday, November 28, 2013

Musings: Memories to be Thankful For

“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual…O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.”  - Henry David Thoreau
Happy Thanksgiving! There are so many things to be thankful for, not only at this time of year, but all year long: family, friends, good health, food on the table, a job... and as Thoreau so eloquently states above: for finding wealth not in things but in memories and experiences. The Nature Conservancy in Washington posed an interesting question on their Facebook page yesterday along those lines:  

What memory of spending time in nature are you most thankful for? 

After getting past my immediate reaction (how do I choose just one?!?) the obvious answer came to mind as I reminisced about the numerous summers spent on road trips with my Dad and older sister.

Yellowstone National Park:  The first of our annual road trips with Dad. That's me on the right, and depending upon how angry she would be with me for sharing this, that may or may not be my older sister on the left...

Outfitted with sunglasses, fanny packs, clunky cameras, hiking boots and/or sandals (with socks!), we hiked through Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Redwoods, Crater Lake, the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Banff National Park, Glacier National Park, as well as Mount Saint Helens, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, and the Olympic National Park here in Washington... just to name a few!

At the time, as a child who viewed hiking with some trepidation and who tended to get whiny once the hike exceeded a mile or so, I didn't realize that these experiences of being outdoors in nature were changing me as a person.  The natural wonders that we marveled at, hiked through, learned about, and photographed gradually worked their way into my being and gave me a greater appreciation for the impressive ancient forests, roaring waterfalls, mountain peaks, rock formations, lava flows and canyons that are our national heritage.  The impressive raw beauty combined with the intriguing ecology and history of the scenery drew me in, sparked my interest, and led to what will be a life-long affinity for the outdoors and the environment that surrounds us.

Over the years I accumulated photo albums packed with pictures of the sites we visited, freezing in time the images of our proud national and state parks that are increasingly threatened by environmental issues such as climate change.  I am a believer in the idea that people care about what they know: without having seen a particular natural feature or landscape, and without developing a connection with it and a reason to care, people will be less likely to be involved with and impassioned about its protection.  Looking back now, I know that these annual summertime road trips were crucial in developing the environmental ethic and interest in nature that defines a big part of who I am as a person (and Nature Nerd!) today.  And for this, I am truly thankful. 

Dad on a hiking trail through a lava flow in Oregon

Thank you Dad, for driving us around the country so that we could see the scenery and experience the journey rather than putting us on an airplane to quickly get from point A to point B; for taking us into the great outdoors to appreciate what is real instead of shuffling us into the artifice of amusement parks. Those road trips to our national parks are the memories of spending time in nature that I am most thankful for!

1 comment:

  1. What a truly great article about the exceptional trips into nature that you took with your dad - my hubby - and your gratitude for his being so consistent in the annual trip-taking. He's a pretty great guy - isn't he?