For Valentines Day: Fourteen lovely nature quotes.

One

"I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says 'Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.'"

―Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Two

"I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, 'This is what it is to be happy.'"

—Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Three

 "Not just beautiful, though—the stars are like the trees in the forest, alive and breathing. And they're watching me."

—Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

Four

 "'Is the spring coming?' he said. 'What is it like?' ...

'It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine, and things pushing up and working under the earth.'"

—Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Five

"If we surrendered

to earth's intelligence

we could rise up rooted, like trees."

—Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God

Six

"The glitter in the sky looks as if I could scoop it all up in my hands and let the stars swirl and touch one another, but they are so distant, so very far apart, that they cannot feel the warmth of each other, even though they are made of burning."

—Beth Revis, Across the Universe

Seven

"This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls."

—John Muir, John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir

Eight

"Snow was falling,

so much like stars

filling the dark trees

that one could easily imagine

its reason for being was nothing more

than prettiness."

—Mary Oliver, "Snowy Night"

Nine

 "But especially he loved to run in the dim twilight of the summer midnights, listening to the subdued and sleepy murmurs of the forest, reading signs and sounds as a man may read a book, and seeking for the mysterious something that called—called, waking or sleeping, at all times, for him to come."

—Jack London, The Call of the Wild

Ten

 "Quiet stars and the still of expectation. The eucalyptus branches heavy with evening dew, their feet shuffling woodchips, braiding eights in the silver grass, and edging hillocks from the first mulch of fall."

—Will Chancellor, A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall

Eleven

"The sea is emotion incarnate. It loves, hates, and weeps. It defies all attempts to capture it with words and rejects all shackles. No matter what you say about it, there is always that which you can't."

—Christopher Paolini, Eragon

Twelve

"'To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure, is the most perfect refreshment.'"

—Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

Thirteen

 "These people have learned not from books, but in the fields, in the wood, on the river bank. Their teachers have been the birds themselves, when they sang to them, the sun when it left a glow of crimson behind it at setting, the very trees, and wild herbs."

―Anton Chekhov, A Day in the Country

Fourteen

“My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.” 

― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Five New National Parks and increased pollution of North American Wilderness

"Paper money eventually returns to its intrinsic value - zero."

Voltaire

In the space of 48 hours and the span of two continents - North and South America. People, and governments are concerned with two decisions which will have - potentially - everlasting impact on some of the more beautiful landscapes on our planet as well as the environmental, historical and social fabric of these places. 

In Patagonia, Chile, Yesterday celebrated the signing into law of five new national parks, totaling over one million acres. The five new parks are Alacalufes, Cerro Castillo, Melimoyu, Patagonia, and Pumalín. In addition three existing national parks; Corcovado, Hornopirén, and Isla Magdalena will be expanded. 

In Alaska, United States today. The Bureau of Land Management will end it's acceptance of feedback on a decision to build a 211 mile mining road through pristine wilderness in The Brooks Range. The reason for this - to mine copper. The process of which would pollute rivers, kill salmon, interrupt the migration of Caribou and drive the local people who live there to move from the home they have inhabited for thousands of years. 

The issues and reasons leading up to both of the actions are numerous and complex. However, the fact remains that while compromise, community and the recognition of the intrinsic value of of nature - has driven the South American decision. Money, (and copper mining) has driven the decision to apply for permission to cut a road through the Alaskan wilderness. 

Is Chile more important than the United States? Do the Chilean people deserve more, or the North American people deserve less that the support of government to protect public lands for public benefit?

Why is the the government of the United States seeking to remove protections for National Parks, National Monuments and Public Lands while other nations worldwide are setting aside land for the benefit of generations to come. 

The answer is money - and it's not worth destroying pristine wilderness for.

TAKE ACTION: THIS WILL TAKE TEN MINUTES CLICK HERE

Today - JANUARY 31 - is the last day to submit comments to the Bureau of Land Management. The building of this road can be halted by acting today. The Brooks Range council have all the information on how to send comments to BLM.

      
  

Wilderness Warriors

Whatever you are physically...female or male, strong or weak, ill or healthy--all those things matter less than what your heart contains. If you have the soul of a warrior, you are a warrior. All those other things, they are the glass that contains the lamp, but you are the light.” 
― Cassandra Clare

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A few weeks ago, I was researching the historic 1903 camping trip in Yosemite. Research included walking up what today is Four-Mile Trail, to Glacier Point. I find walking to be good for clearing my mind, so when I reached Glacier Point in the late morning I wasn't really thinking anything at all.

On reaching the point and as I enjoyed the warm sun and solitude, my eyes were drawn to Half Dome and a dusting of snow on Clouds Rest. Then as I turned towards the north, I had to check myself because I was overcome with the strongest wave of deja vu. I took my notebook from my pocket and unfolded this picture which I have as a bookmark. I was standing on the very same spot where - a hundred and fifteen years ago -Roosevelt and Muir stood and surveyed The Yosemite. 

I looked back across the valley and realised that the view was the same view. I knew - not for the first time in this past year - that there is a reason we need to come to these places. It's not a frivolity nor unnecessary - and no matter how many pictures we see or films we watch... we need to find a way into the heart of this beauty - if we are going to let it seep into our own hearts. Muir had vision. He knew that by bringing the President here, that what he saw, would not be forgotten.

And he didn't forget. This outing began with Muir writing to the President in 1902. Then, on March 14, 1903, Roosevelt wrote back, asking Muir to take him through the Yosemite. He noted, “I do not want anyone with me but you, and I want to drop politics absolutely for four days and just be out in the open with you.” 

At the time, Roosevelt’s advisors thought that America’s wilderness was too large to ever be depleted. Having seen firsthand, the impact of ungoverned ranching, grazing, lumber and mining operations Muir knew otherwise and urged Roosevelt if the government could help?

Historian David Brinkley called Roosevelt a Wilderness Warrior. His book of the same title is a great account of the life of Roosevelt - who in his presidency - provided federal protection for almost 230 million acres of land, set aside 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reservations, five national parks and the first 18 national monuments. He also created the U.S. Forest Service and signed the Antiquities Act, allowing congress and future presidents to create national monuments; something all Presidents have done since.

I used to not like the word, 'Warrior'. It felt like something the Army used, as a way to get folks to shoot something, or jump out of a plane - when when all knew that neither idea was a very good one.... Yet now, I realise that in it's purest sense - the warrior ethos is rooted in every type of spiritual teaching, going back for thousands of years. Muir was a pacifist, but he was also a warrior. Many people are. And many, especially the quiet warriors, go unnoticed, not seeking credit or reward. Muir was reclusive in personality - not someone who enjoyed public exposure - but it didn't stop him writing to the president.

How do we nurture that same Wilderness Warrior energy and ethos. For me; there are many small ways. It can be mental bearing - calmness. It's veracity, open-minded reflection and the ability to see clearly. It's commitment to something greater, perhaps something unknown and unknowable. It's discipline, service, sacrifice maybe even courage. It's gratitude and respect. It's trusting that our bodies and minds know. They know - that nature is invigorating and also healing. And amazingly the source of these gifts - nature - is also the teacher. I can stand in an alpine meadow or hunker down in a storm or sunrise - and I don't even need to turn on the spigot - I know I'm not alone in this feeling. I know that when we go outside in nature, we can simply - and effortlessly - let it flow over us, doing it's work and filling our body and souls with goodness and peace. 

I recently had a conversation with United States Senator, Maria Cantwell. We chatted about current wilderness areas under threat (there are a few and I'll feature some in upcoming newsletters) and I was curious to learn how the lawmakers can protect areas like Bears Ears Monument and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (they can do a lot, especially with our support). 

I see a Wilderness Warrior in Senator Cantwell. She is not only fierce, confident, intelligent and compassionate about nature. She also knows how to protect wilderness at the highest levels of Government. As well as writing laws, Senator Cantwell is also an accomplished hiker and mountain climber. And there are many other lawmakers who care about our passion to protect wilderness. In fact in Washington state - the two large political parties both work together to protect wilderness areas locally and with success. In the brief conversation, I had asked, "How I support or be of service?" I got a clear answer - "Write! We need stories, we need writers and we need artists". I can do that. We all can. It doesn't need to be perfect but if it's driven by heart and spirit, it will always be meaningful. 

What can we do?

I think we can do a lot. We can take people into nature. We can take our friends and family. We can volunteer at hundreds of organisations who run nature trips for young people - and people who don't have the means to get out. We can write, draw and paint. We can take a Leave No Trace course, or a Wilderness First Aid class, or trail maintenance. We can also use social media for good. We can build a half hour walk into our daily schedule, perhaps a lunchtime or after work with collegues from our workplace. What if everyone picked one thing from this list? 

What ideas do you have? Please share.

History repeats itself. It's not lost on me, that 115 years after Muir and The Wilderness Warrior walked on the granite trails and through the pines in Yosemite - that as much as (or more than) then - there are significant threats to places that most people agree should be protected from industrial development. If ever there was a time when we needed to pull the sword from the stone, it is now.

Thank you for reading this newsletter. I hope you enjoy it. I believe we are designed to nurture and protect what we care for - and I hope you feel the Wilderness Warrior ethos in your blood.

Please join me in sharing this message to people who care. Everyone, can make a bold difference, everyone can benefit from sharing natures gifts and we can all participate in energising the community which cares about nurturing our wild places, even if in quiet and tiny ways. Especially in quiet and tiny ways. As the opening quote in this letter says;

"If you have the soul of a warrior, you are a warrior. All those other things, they are the glass that contains the lamp, but you are the light.” 

Shine brightly, 
John

#wildernesswarrior

Yosemite in Winter. Words from 1872 - Film from 2016

"Toward night all cloud and rock distinctions were blended out, rock after rock disappeared, El Capitan, the Domes and the Sentinel, and all the brows about Yosemite Falls were wiped out, and the whole valley was filled with equal, seamless gloom. There was no wind and every rock and tree and grass blade had a hushed, expectant air. The fullness of time arrived, and down came the big flakes in tufted companies of full grown flowers. Not jostling and rustling like autumn leaves or blossom showers of an orchard whose castaway flakes are hushed into any hollow for a grave, but they journeyed down with gestures of confident life, alighting upon predestined places on rock and leaf, like flocks of linnets or showers of summer flies. Steady, exhaustless, innumerable. The trees, and bushes, and dead brown grass were flowered far beyond summer, bowed down in blossom and all the rocks were buried. Every peak and dome, every niche and tablet had their share of snow. And blessed are the eyes that beheld morning open the glory of that one dead storm. In vain did I search for some special separate mass of beauty on which to rest my gaze. No island appeared throughout the whole gulf of the beauty. The glorious crystal sediment was everywhere. From wall to wall of our beautiful temple, from meadow to sky was one finished unit of beauty, one star of equal ray, one glowing sun, weighed in the celestial balances and found perfect." 

John Muir Yosemite, California. 1872

Florence Williams: 'This is Your Brain on Nature'

Yesterday, I had the chance to join friends from North Cascades Institute to listen to a discussion between Florence Williams, author of This is Your Brain On Nature - and REI's Bob Discher, at Seattle Town Hall.  

Florence Williams' book focuses on humanity's increasing disconnect from nature and the question of how good nature actually is for us. This review describes the themes discussed in her book and in yesterday's discussion.  

"For centuries, poets and philosophers extolled the benefits of a walk in the woods: Beethoven drew inspiration from rocks and trees; Wordsworth composed while tromping over the heath; and Nikola Tesla conceived the electric motor while visiting a park. Intrigued by our storied renewal in the natural world, Florence Williams set out to uncover the science behind nature’s positive effects on the brain.
Williams investigates cutting-edge research as she travels to fragrant cypress forests in Korea to meet the rangers who administer “forest healing programs,” to the green hills of Scotland and its “ecotherapeutic” approach to caring for the mentally ill, to a river trip in Idaho with Iraqi vets suffering from PTSD, to the West Virginia mountains where she discovers how being outside helps children with ADHD. The Nature Fix demonstrates that our connection to nature is much more important to our cognition than we think and that even small amounts of exposure to the living world can improve our creativity and enhance our mood. In prose that is incisive, witty, and urgent, Williams shows how time in nature is not a luxury but is in fact essential to our humanity." 

As an audience member, what struck me, was the depth and emotion of people attending the event and some the questions asked:

  • "How much nature is enough?"
  • "What surprised you in your research?" 
  • "What about diversity in the outdoors?"
  • "What about gender? Is the nature experience the same for all genders"
  • "What are other countries doing to explore nature as a place for healing?" (hint - a lot, especially Japan and South Korea).

'This Is Your Brain On Nature', is an important book and a great read. Perhaps this was evidenced most, in listening to people speak into a microphone to ask questions. These were questions which were deeply heartfelt, questions that indicated -without hesitation -the depth to which we feel awe when we even think about nature. They were questions about what going to nature really means for us. 

Hearing intimations about love for nature, listening to sentences broken by emotion and expressions of awe - this left me wondering about how many times I've either taken my nature experiences for granted, or that I've put off going to where I know I need to be - to feel that sense of completeness - which is so important in our lives, and that we know can be found in nature.

"All good things are wild and free".  Henry David Thoreau.