In the season of great holidays with all their heightened emotional baggage, we’re all aware of global problems, and even our personal crises can seem more heavily weighted at times like these. Whereas global matters and personal relationships are generally considered to be vastly separated, if we dig down deeply into ourselves we may note that one realm readily affects the other.
I’ve long been a fan of Aldo Leopold’s book, A Sand County Almanac. One of my personal favorites for many years, the work has helped me understand that a naturalist, or one who strives to see relationships between humanity and nature, dwells in a kind of solitude among other folks, a solitude lonely or felicitous or somewhere inbetween.
As an amateur naturalist myself, I recognize a “world of wounds” because, for better or worse, it tells me I’m alive and at least reasonably aware of what’s going on in the larger sphere of existence.
This family enjoyed an excellent Christmas together, although my daughter came home unexpectedly from Scotland a couple of days earlier under saddened circumstances. We were here to help her and to step forward in celebration of the holidays.
Before Christmas Eve kicked into high gear with a family gathering in Hornell, New York, my son and I seized the early afternoon as the traditional time to climb the hill to meet my brother walking up from the other side where his home is located. My son’s entertaining account of this “whiskey walk” can be found on his recent blog post at Bridging the Gap. This three-mile ramble up through the fields and forest was unusually warm this year with more fog and mist than with snow and ice, but it was pleasant nonetheless.
Again, we met at the old car that had given up the ghost along an abandoned road some 50 years ago when Greenwood was still a relatively thriving agricultural community. That rusty, bullet-ridden heap serves the three of us as a woodland bartop where we pause to hear the ravens flying by or to spy a run-about turkey or a deer. As we talk and laugh and tilt back our heads in libation to the gods, it seems that nature has taken yet another small step to embrace the one-time industrial wonder and to bring it closer to the folds.
It, too, lives in a world of wounds, but at least its battles are long over.
With a whiskey flask or a beer can in our grasps (yes, we carry those empties back for recycling!) I proposed a toast to the recent NYS fracking ban that almost feels like a rare David-over-Goliath victory.
The rivertops and the wild country thank those humans who fought the Big Machinery of Fossil Fuel and won. With luck, the wounds that have eaten at the hearts of everyone involved, on both sides of the battle, will soon be healed.
We paused on the grey-bound summit and Brent asked for a moment of silence to hear the surroundings. The excesses of the “hunting club” would soon be noticeable beyond the mist (a 40-foot tower used for deer surveillance, an elaborate camp and stocked trout pond, etc.), but for now this was the world…
I imagined that my daughter was feeling stronger about her life. She and Leighanne would soon be picking up my aged mother at her house down in the valley. The sound of a jet plane scraped slowly across the heavens. A line of oak trees at the field edge dropped icy raindrops from the crowns of chattering leaves.
We were on our way. The muddy, frozen cornfields might have looked like Nebraska in a fight for lost causes– every other corn stalk hot for guns, cool on immigration to America, completely perplexed if you mention “man-made climate change”– but we probably felt like old progressives on the mend, at last…
After all, it was Christmas, and the New Year brings a silver lining….