Friday, September 30, 2011

Fishing For an Adventure

We headed down to the river for the weather was glorious. We both had work to do but decided to ignore it and take the girls fishing.

Fishing was something all of us could do. Even our two year old, Quincy, could hold a rod (although we usually took the hook off.) Our five year old, Siri, was in love with it.

Nicholas Kristof, a New York Times columnist, has written in the past about the value of getting outdoors. In this one, he describes an annual backpacking trip he does with his 11-year old daughter. As he puts it, it’s “a time to hit the “reset” switch and escape deadlines and BlackBerrys.”

Andy and I feel just the same about the outdoors. Nature provides an escape from everything and soothes our souls. Here in Telluride, we are lucky to have vast expanses of wilderness right out of the back door. Indeed, when people ask us why we live in Telluride, we tell them about Bear Creek and the Valley Floor. We tell them about the Sneffel’s Highline trail and the hike-to’s on Quail. And finally, we tell them this: As parents, when we get an hour or two to ourselves, we want to escape quickly. Nature, more than anything else, helps us to forget the petty and to remember everything that is important.

I wonder, though, what though do the majority of Americans do, who don’t have such access to the outdoors? According to Kristof: “Only 2 percent of American households now live on farms, compared with 40 percent in 1900.” Children, as we know, spend more and more time indoors. Author Richard Louv in his book, “Last Child in the Woods” quotes Paul, a fourth grader from San Diego, who sums it up this way: “I like to play indoors better, ’cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.”

Kristof and Louv raise this important point: how will this shift from the outdoors to the indoors affect the psychological health of our culture? Children and adults need wild spaces to be alive. How do people recharge in the absence of true outdoor space?

Kristof concludes his first article with this advice: fight against such a nature deficit disorder and go backpacking. But for many people, this isn’t easy. After he wrote this, Kristof was flooded with emails, the majority of which read something like this: Backpacking sounds great, but how do I do it? And what about bears? Kristof responded with a how-to article the following Sunday. How-to camp. How-to light a fire. How-to travel lightly.

Backpacking though, of course, is just one way to be in the outdoors. I wonder what America would be like if everyone had the chance to have an afternoon like my family had last Sunday? What if more of America could protect open space as we have done in Telluride?

Americans need wilderness more than anything else right now. As the writer, Terry Tempest Williams puts it: “To be whole. To be complete. Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.”

To watch water flow, to hear rocks splash, and to see a fish rise is to live in a world that is richer than the indoor space that humans manufacture. To hear and see such beauty means we forget about being human for a few hours and all the failures that go along with that. It means feeling alive, very alive for an afternoon. And most importantly, it means an adventure.

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