Thursday, January 20, 2011


Up here is seeming more and more as I read accounts of America, at least as viewed by its citizens, in 1910.  America, in its own opinion, was still young and vibrant and faultless, and God had put all those trees and animals here to harvest for his children's good.  The main newspaper has a Women's Section; one almost expects the people being interviewed to wear daytime corsets and picture hats.
John Aubrey in his Brief Lives writes, "My grandfather Lyte told me that at one Lord Majors shew there was the Representation of the Creation of the World, and writt underneath AND ALL FOR MAN." (sic)

At a rather nice little pastry shop in Forks (from the North, take the first right after the True Value) , I was having fun with a tiny blackberry cheesecake and a rather ferocious cup of coffee, and the amusing gentleman who hangs out helping with the bread was discussing the locals ("gossiping," is, I believe, the correct term among those of us who practice the art).  He complained that The Park (Olympic Peninsula National Park) was denying The People their rights on the land.  To paraphrase the conversation:

"When these parks were established, it was for the People."

I answered, "Well, maybe it's time we rethink how we view what's left of our wild lands.  We'll be extinct someday, especially at the rate we're going, and these creatures need a refuge until we're gone.  Maybe it's time we lock up this land and stay out of it, so these creatures can survive.  We at least owe them that."

He didn't say a lot after that.  He seemed to be thinking.  I can't tell if he was upset, weighing the idea, reviewing the future, or all of it at once.  I'd had too much rather good coffee; what did I know?

I tend to think about whether there's enough for everybody, including my fellow creatures, before I start grabbing.  I've heard a couple of kids who've begun hunting deer -- hopefully to provide food, and not in the spirit of triumphalist conquest over nature -- described as "killing machines."  I've seen men strip the fillets off live fish and throw the carcasses back in the water to swim away.  

The animals die daily so we can live; how did we lose the ability to respect them?  We've stolen a phrase for our religion, placing to the credit of of one of our mythological characters the idea that "He died so we can live." The poor plantation and scrubland that exists outside the parks is even despised by the people who go in after the deer.  One man sneered, "I hate trees."

How do we hate the lungs of the planet?  How do we hate that which helps us survive every day, just because it gets in our way?  When did the earth and what's on it become The Enemy?  Yes, I know the arguments about older religions that were plugged into our beliefs, and the dangerous belief that all is either evil or good.  How long are we going to fall for that?

Recently an animal was treated as a toy or a piece of wood, and I had to get involved.  I have my own life; isn't it enough that I have to rescue other people's cats when they wander off on the next stage of their lives, because it's not convenient any more?  I was told that the person who had obtained the animal, a young puppy, and left him tied with a wire out in the freezing cold, with inadequate shelter and frozen water, had to deal with a family emergency.  

"People come first," was the reason.

Isn't that exactly what's gotten us into the mess we're in on this planet?  The local people do not know what they've got -- what scraps and evidences of the original wealth that was here -- and they're just throwing it away with both hands.  They despise cities, and yet they seem to be going right down the same road they claim they want to avoid.  They have a golden place, here -- or at least the broken remnants of one -- with capability to restore it to the wonder it was, at least in part, or at least to prepare in their lifetime for the future, and all they care about is whether they can kill an elk with a heavy rack or if the Seahawks win.  They don't seem to worry that any timber industry is dumping toxins into the water, even as the cancer rates up here sky-rocket.  

In strictly economic terms, they have the opportunity to build excellent nature tourism, including the fact that the area has been named an Audubon area.  Instead, they want to look back to 1910, and the days when they could kill all the fish they wanted,  Now they squabble over what remains, even blaming seals and eagles for what they've done themselves; nobody up here seems to have a mirror.  As Vancouver Island begins to tap the big-leaf maples for syrup -- a permanent forest-products industry -- the local logging companies are going after those same trees like piranhas.  It almost seems like a pattern; anything that provide the local population with an alternate, and permanent, livelihood, is taken out of the way as quickly as possible.  This isn't a professional study; it just seems to happen every time.  

One of the logging companies decided the Scenic Byway on Highway 112 was an opportunity to show Dem City Folks how a working forest looks.  Yeah, that's a really effective conversion tool, isn't it?  My father's prejudice as a long-haul trucker may be coming into effect in me, here.  But I really should have gotten a photograph of the giant tree a couple of the local maroons stole out of an old-growth area so they could be on Axmen, as though the television producers weren't going to figure out they were dealing with theft.  But none of this attitude toward the local life is new; they have an historical culture-hero up here, who supposedly went out and set up a life as an independent man of the forest -- but what he was really doing was living on predator bounties, until he'd cleared out as many of the local cougars as he could get his paws on.

A local farmer continued that attitude, but he had help.  Three young cougars came poking onto his land and were trapped in boxes.  Cougars wander more than they should, here, as clear-cuts drive them out of their habitat and into local neighborhoods, always with the death of the cougar as the result, as the locals panic (hell, they panic over and face off with rutting territorial mountain goats, but that's another story).  A "forest ranger," as he said, told him the cougars couldn't survive if they were shipped elsewhere, so the three animals were shot in their trap-box and buried.  There are options for other possibilities; why didn't that forest ranger make the effort?  Has he fallen victim to the local feeling of conquest, with its adjunct, helplessness and fear in the face of nature?  Who knows?

I shouldn't talk about the people up here as though they were born in the Pacific Northwest, as I was.  A lot of them are from the midwest and other points east.  Whenever they can't stand the rain, they head for the desert.  

Maybe they can leave the desert where it is, and go visit it when they need it, and not try to bring it here? 


Miss Jane A. Barcroft said...

I found myself thinking just this afternoon, while looking over a page about several sanctuaries for abused wildcats, that the human race needs to collectively put on its damn condom.

Donna Barr said...

The human race is the last twig of its family, like the horse. Maybe we should start packing, because we'll be gone soon.