Newton B. Drury, National Park Service Director, 1940-1951:
“The American way of life consists of something that goes greatly beyond the mere obtaining of
necessities of existence. If it means anything, it means that America presents to its citizens an opportunity to grow mentally and spiritually, as well as physically. The National Park System and the work of the National Park Service constitute one of the Federal Government’s important contributions to that opportunity. Together they make it possible for all Americans–millions of them at first-hand–to enjoy unspoiled the great scenic places of the Nation…. The National Park System also provides, through areas that are significant in history and prehistory, a physical as well as spiritual linking of present-day Americans with the past of their country.”
This morning, the Lens Artists challenge is hosted by Amy, who asks us to share our interpretation of Old and New.
I sit here, as a writer, as a citizen, as a mother, as a human, with so many heightened emotions and anxieties and questions. The snapshot of where we are in history in the year 2020 is extremely perplexing. At the same time, ancient realities endure. The sun comes up, plants grow, mountains stand. And we homo sapiens, perhaps uniquely on the Tree of Life, have the opportunity and the responsibility to make meaning of Old and New and “grow mentally and spiritually, as well as physically” in response to life as we see it.
I think that the National Parks present fitting illustrations of this endeavor to make meaning, to interpret, the realities around us.
Wind Cave National Park (above) in South Dakota protects a vast area of caves and surface features that is stunning and mysterious. Imagine the relationship of ancient peoples to this powerful place. The Spirit breath coming from this opening in the Earth was understood to be creative and holy. Years of scientific exploration and analysis have not diminished that understanding. New interpretation does not erase the Old beliefs. Each drop of mineral-laden water inside still contributes to the process of creating formations of awe-inspiring beauty.
Dinosaur National Monument (above), on the border between Colorado and Utah, provides a very literal illustration of Old and New. The rock quarry containing “a dinosaur log jam”, as our guide described it, is now encased in a modern Visitor Center that protects and displays in situ more than 1,500 fossilized dinosaur bones from the late Jurassic period, about 150 million years ago.
I am impressed by the way that the National Park Systems serves to respect and protect the Old and precious natural features of this country. Embracing that responsibility seems supremely wise to me. I am not impressed by Newness that disrespects and destroys ancient things, ways, and means.
And yes, I worked as an historic interpreter at a state museum, and I do have a personal preference for Old things over New.
When weighing the merits of Old and New concepts, I think that “respect and protect” is a good rule of thumb. Respect and protect LIFE, especially that life that is most vulnerable. This is an Old concept that deserves to be reNEWed – moment by moment.