“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
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.”