Tuesday, September 13, 2016

beyond the scenery habit, in Taproot: Wander issue

We have three children back at school for their first full week and I am eager to get back to writing.  And I can't think of a better way to jump back in than to have my essay, beyond the scenery habit, be included in the most recent issue of Taproot: Wander.  This issue is, as usual, visually gorgeous, and full of good things.  My essay is about our family's road trip, taken last summer, and specifically about Yellowstone National Park and our time there.  Several images I took of the park are also included.

My copy of the issue arriving in the mail inspired me to pull out our photo albums from our trip and sit for a while with them, remembering our time together there.  Such a perfect activity to do with our children as we all transition back into the school year and schedule.  The difference even just one year makes, their faces longer, shiny now with orthodontia, legs longer, those shoes now in the hand-me-down bins.  It makes one realize all that can change within one year, within one person, within one place.  And makes one excited for the year to come, aware of all that a year can hold.  
We used to visit our national parks most often by car.  Families took time and experienced the gradual approach to the park being visited.  Anticipation was part of the journey as was the wildness of a family spending time together for hours and days, traversing states.  Today we arrive by plane.  We miss the trek across the vast expanse of this nation.  
from The Hour of Land by Terry Tempest Williams

Part of an amazing 3000 mile road trip last summer for us, Yellowstone National Park is a fascinating and complicated place, and being there as a family with eyes wide open and bodies stretched and exploring, it's all the good stuff of parenting these days.  And there was much wildness of a family spending time together for sure.  For me, I had visited as a child and now twice as a parent.  We returned to the park this summer as well, and experienced it as a family who had been there before.  We did some of the same things, responded to each can we do that again? with yes as often as we could.  But we also explored new scenery, and had different knowledge about the park and its history than we had before, different capacities for taking it all in, and even just a year later it felt different, was different than we remembered, and we were different within it.  And certainly, I now have a different understanding of the complexities of preserving land, history, story, and wilderness in the United States having done the research for my essay.

Today, I watch from here in the East as wildfires close access to our beloved campground there in the West.  The distance erased by the Twitter account I followed upon entering that park more than a year ago, and will not unfollow. And I think of those woods, those trees, the sounds that held us while we were there.  I look through photos of woods that burned, tree trunks charred, and green grasses and wildflowers thriving at their bases and remind myself of the natural processes at work.  

I am currently reading The Hour of Land:  A Personal Topography of American's National Parks by Terry Tempest Williams.  We have visited as a family over the past two summers many of the parks, each chapter devoted to one that she has a personal history within, .  I am learning more.  I am watching as Maine begins the process of creating another National Monument in the northern woods of Maine, after years of advocacy and of dissent.  This newly protected place near the woods of my own childhood, so familiar that I can, here at my desk, conjure the smell of the lake water and cedar and dirt, squint in the dappled light filtering down through the thick branches while listening to the lake lap against the old wooden dock.  And Nicholas, our oldest, has just returned from a week spent near those woods.  I can smell those woods in his backpack, and he is full of stories of sleeping under shooting stars beside a lake.  Now he has been to a part of those woods that I have never visited.  And that is...where we are now.  And it's good.
This is what we can promise the future: a legacy of care.  That we will be good stewards and not take too much or give back too little, that we will recognize wild nature for what it is, in all its magnificent and complex history -- an unfathomable wealth that should be consciously saved, not ruthlessly spent...Humility is born in wildness.  We are not protecting grizzlies from extinction;  they are protecting us from the extinction of experience as we engage in a world beyond ourselves.
from The Hour of Land by Terry Tempest Williams

I hope you will find a copy of Taproot and enjoy all it holds.  

Here in Portland, Maine, it is available at these shops.  And it can be ordered online here.

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