©Bert Gildart: Time is written in the features Janie and I have recently witnessed in both Bryce and in the Grand Canyon, and in slightly different ways those features are expressing themselves here in Anza Borrego Desert State Park. We’re seeing them through the unobstructed rising of the brilliant red desert sun; the flocks of Gambel’s Quail charging among the ocotillo — just leafed out following a down pour of rain; and in the monstrous ears of the desert cottontail that time has enlarged to dissipate heat which assaults it almost daily.
At the end of such observations I find that I start reading books with a natural history theme. Our time here in Anza Borrego Desert State Park has produced no exceptions.
This past week while camped at Agua Caliente I completed a book entitled Red, which contains some of the nation’s most eloquent writing on behalf of wilderness and the creatures that make such wild places their home. I like the writing of Terry Tempest Williams in part because her concerns about excessive population growth, unchecked construction, and the ravages of wild places are identical to mine. But after those comparisons similarities cease, for she voices her concerns in a way that must be classified as pure art.
Ms. Williams (a relative of Mitt Romney) makes her case through the telling of stories, believing, she says, that “Story… returns us to our highest and deepest selves, where we remember what it means to be human…” In her book she writes passionately about time, about wildlife and about people, and because much of her writing in the book pleads for the preservation of wilderness lands in Utah she asks specifically:
“What,” she queries, “do these places have to say to us as human beings at this point in time? What do they have to say about life during the Cretaceous, Jurassic, and Triassic eras? What do they say about the erosion and uplift of our souls and imaginations?”
The sun rises through the time-adjusted branches of an ocotillo plant, which in turn attracts a variety of species of birds — ecological adjustments that are a product of the eons.
Leaping ahead to another page she summarizes: “When one of us says, ‘Look, there’s nothing out there,’ what we’re really saying is, ‘I cannot see.’”
Those same thoughts can, of course, be applied to lands other than to just those in Utah, and those who have followed my blogs (perhaps even some of my magazine stories) over the years know that because the Arctic Refuge contains one of the world’s last self-regulating natural ecosystems I believe it should be preserved. Those who can’t find beauty in a field of arctic flowers or in the annual migration of thousands of caribou simply can not see! Instead, they compensate for their lack of vision calling it “a wasteland that should be developed.”
Those, however, who have actually been there say it should be protected forever as wilderness, for its existence and evolved ecology is the product of the eons, and from this defacto wilderness area, magnificent stories about native adaptations have been recorded.
Once I thought that opening the refuge to development was the ultimate insult to time and intelligence but sadly equivalents have emerged. Expediency rather than wisdom might soon alter the health of our globe despite the existence of thoughtful alternatives. As well it might introduce an international pipeline, and deplete our aquifers. And so it is with the assault on our land not only where I live in Montana, but also in places contiguous with Arches National Monument – where one recent president began exploratory drilling.
Consequently, I began casting around for solutions and again find myself listening to Ms. Williams who says that if we listen to our politicians we must ask some serious question: “Who,” she asked, “is speaking on the side of time?”
After reading Williams’s book and then photographing and enjoying magnificent aspects of this desert, I find myself thinking once again about our place in the universe, and then wondering what our world could look like under the wrong set of circumstances?
AIRSTREAM TRAVELS THREE YEARS AGO:
ADS FROM AMAZON AND GOOGLE AUGMENT OUR TRAVELS:
(You can order our new books (shown below ) from Amazon — or you can order them directly from the Gildarts. Bert will knock a dollar off the list price of $16.95, but he must add the cost of book-rate mailing and the mailer, which are $2.25. The grand total then is $18.20. Please send checks to Bert Gildart at 1676 Riverside Road, Bigfork, MT 59911.)