Tag Archives: wilderness
Weekly Photo Challenge: Pure, Pristine Wilderness
Untouched, virgin wilderness is perhaps an impossibility on Earth these days. Are there any places that haven’t been touched with acid rain, air pollution or light pollution? Not likely, even if they have never been trammelled by human footsteps. Still, wilderness is an idea worth supporting and fighting for. Pure may only exist in our imagination, but it can have an impact there. What would the silence of machines, the darkness of the night sky,
the solitude of a forest mean to you?
Pure delight or pure dread?
Weekly Photo Challenge: Landscapes of my Life
I am pleased that Joshua Tree National Park and Jeff Sinon were both mentioned in this challenge. I happen to be fans of both! And of Wilderness, of course. (There’s a page dedicated to Wilderness above – please take a look!)
Landscape has been an inspiration for me from a very young age. My father used to take me for walks in the Morton Arboretum in the far western Chicago suburbs. I was overjoyed to be set free running across open expanses of rolling lawn dotted with dandelions and trees. Suburban landscapes are quite domestic, though. I longed for something wilder.
I would stare out my second floor bedroom window towards the west, imagining that the frontier started just beyond the GAR Memorial Forest Preserve and the Des Plaines river. I finally learned that there were just more suburbs on the other side. Then, when I was 10, we went to Colorado to visit my cousins, and I saw a mountain for the first time. It was like all the magic of a fairy tale come true, more majesty than I could take in with my arms spread wide and my feet clambering tirelessly upward!
When I was 14, we moved to California, and I discovered a diversity of landscapes to love – the shore, the deserts, the redwood forests, the foothills and the Sierras.
By my 30th birthday, I had moved back to the Midwest to raise my four children in a less dramatic but safer environment. I fell in love again with the prairie.
But Wilderness calls me to the North Woods and the West whenever I can travel, and these landscapes are the ones I want to photograph with more care and passion (and better equipment!) in the future.
Weekly Photo Challenge: Swans at Half Light
When I was a little girl, my father read to me from E.B. White’s story “The Trumpet of the Swan”. I was 8 years old when that book was published, and I can imagine my father buying it to read to me and my 3 older sisters with his own great curiosity about that remarkable writer neatly disguised as paternal generosity. I had a fascination with the part where the young swan stays at the Ritz Carlton in Boston and eats watercress sandwiches provided by room service, probably in part because I was born in Massachusetts. We had moved to the Midwest when I was 4 years old. When I was 14, we moved to California. When I was 29 and had 4 kids of my own, I moved back to Illinois. Five years ago, I moved up to Wisconsin. In the north woods, and the edge of designated Wilderness, I saw my first wild swans in the half light of evening as I was setting up camp with Steve. I thought of Louis the swan and of finding your true wild voice. I heard the deep silence of that Place and felt the tender understanding of my father, who loved the outdoors. I stood on the soft, summer pine forest floor and took these pictures. To me, the world is poetry – in moment and memory.
Weekly Photo Challenge: State of Mind
After determining how to get from our campsite to the trailhead, we were eager to enter the designated Wilderness of this Wisconsin forest. It had been logged more than 30 years ago and then left to return to a more natural state. The trail was an old logging road that had not been maintained, and could barely be recognized under the summer foliage. I felt the quiet buzz of insects around me like a choir of innocents in a holy sanctuary, the sun streaming through the new leaves as if through the stained glass of an ancient cathedral. The forest was teeming with life while calmly silent at the same time. I dared not speak, wanting to be absorbed into the pulsing breath of the place itself.
Every detail seemed to be as exquisite in artistry as a religious icon. I wanted to take it all in and cherish it for eternity.
My camera became the instrument of praise and prayer that day, and I vowed to devote myself to Wilderness protection so that humans would always have a place to experience humility.
Weekly Photo Challenge: Wilderness Inspiration
This photo challenge is familiar. In 2012, there was a similar challenge which I responded to in this fashion. I still blog about all those things, but lately, I’ve come to realize that I have been going through an evolution inspired by a specific concept: WILDERNESS. In fact, I have an entire page set up to link to my wilderness posts. (Feel free to browse around there!) This last weekend, Steve and I went to find some wilderness in the U.P. (the Upper Peninsula of Michigan). Sure enough, there were 3 federally designated wilderness areas in the western portion of that state. We went to the Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness in the Ottawa National Forest. In 1987, logging operations there ceased and the logging roads were left to return to wilderness. We were told by a forest ranger that the old road is a 7.5 mile “trail” that traverses the wilderness and given a map. She warned us, though, that it’s not maintained. We attempted to hike from both trail heads, but only got about 50 feet along before we realized that we would be foolish to go any further. As I headed back toward the car, I realized that I was crying. Not because I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to hike there, but for a very different, special reason. It was as if I had been invited into the sanctuary of a foreign religion or to spend half an hour on a different planet. I was humbled. I was in awe. I felt a reverence for the place that put my presence in profound perspective. It wasn’t quite like I didn’t belong; it was that I belonged no more especially than anything else there, even the tiniest fungus spore. It was a supreme experience of equality. I did not dominate in any way. I jokingly told Steve that this was a place “where men are food and flies are king”, but I was feeling anything but glib in my soul.
To find yourself in the sanctuary of wilderness is to feel the breath of the Divine all around. Breathe it in. Be inspired.
Weekly Photo Challenge: The Intricate Nature of Wilderness
Usually, I reserve Friday mornings for Word Press and open the Daily Post promptly at 11:00 to see what the photo challenge is for the week. Yesterday, however, I was camping in the Whisker Lake Wilderness area in northern Wisconsin. I was up just before dawn, roused by a chorus of woodpeckers and swans, red-winged blackbirds and Canada geese. The early ecophony (a great term Steve recently ran across in an environmental essay: a portmanteau of ecology and cacophony) was only slightly less raucous than the previous moonlit night’s melee of frog song.
Have you ever wondered at the intricacy of co-habitation in an eco-system? Around Perch Lake there were mammals, birds, amphibians, insects and reptiles all doing their interconnected dance with time and space in the most amazingly complex overlapping of rhythms. The full moon, the night frost, the dawn mist, the swelling heat of day: the ebb of one activity and the flow of another as time marches forward spins a never-ending tapestry of living.
On a single rock on the side of the hiking trail, I found another intricate web of life, a microcosm of mosses.
And in a single catkin about to burst into bloom, the green fire of life glows in a delicate pattern of possibility.
The Earth is a multi-layered, intricate web of pattern, design, and interconnection. How marvelous to look at even one tiny corner!
© 2015, essay and photographs, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved
Morning Thoughts: Finding True Place In Wilderness
I found an essay called “The Body and The Earth” by Wendell Berry in The Unsettling of America published in 1977. It is an extremely articulate and broad analysis of that “spherical network” that moves fluidly from agriculture, to Shakespeare and suicide, to sexual differences and divisions, and more. Here is an excerpt from the beginning which describes the mythic human dilemma:
“Until modern times, we focused a great deal of the best of our thought upon such rituals of return to the human condition. “Seeking enlightenment or the Promised Land or the way home, a man would go or be forced to go into the wilderness, measure himself against the Creation, recognize finally his true place within it, and thus be saved both from pride and from despair.
“Seeing himself as a tiny member of a world he cannot comprehend or master or in any final sense possess, he cannot possibly think of himself as a god.
“And by the same token, since he shares in, depends upon, and is graced by all of which he is a part, neither can he become a fiend; he cannot descend into the final despair of destructiveness.
“Returning from the wilderness, he becomes a restorer of order, a preserver. He sees the truth, recognizes his true heir, honors his forebears and his heritage, and gives his blessing to his successors. He embodies the passing of human time, living and dying within the human limits of grief and joy.”
Human limits. Humility. Our struggles, our desires, our wants, our hopes and feelings of elation are not the stuff to tilt the planet. There is a rightness outside of our sphere. I like to remember that perspective each time I encounter the “world wide web” of hype and OMG! and products and extracting resources and cruelty and pettiness.
Peace on earth, Priscilla
© 2014, essay and photographs, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved
Prepare Ye: The Way and The Wilderness
There are many different definitions of the word ‘prepare’, and all of them are about acting decisively, with a will. Make, create, be willing…take responsibility. And there are as many ways of doing that as there are people on earth, I’m sure. The ‘how’ of preparation can be accompanied by a range of attitudes.
The Boy Scout metaphor describes one point on the spectrum. “Be Prepared” is their well-known motto. What that looks like conjures an exact check list of supplies – a camping list designed to meet any foreseeable outcome. Snake bite kit? Check. Flotation device? Check. Sunscreen and thermal underwear? Check and double check. This preparation is fueled by a desire to be in control, it seems. The responses are prescribed, preferred outcomes already decided upon. “I do not want to be cold, wet, sunburned or in pain, and I am taking action now to ensure that.” That is one attitude of preparation.
Another attitude might be illustrated by The Dancer metaphor. A dancer prepares for a pirouette by checking her starting position, aligning her hips and shoulders in a grounded plié – but not staying in that position so long that it causes her to lose momentum. What really prepares her to execute a graceful turn is years and years of practice leading up to the moment of action. That seems to me to be a distinctly different attitude of preparation.
Of course, we can embody more than one attitude of preparation at a time. We can be both Boy Scouts and Dancers, among other things, and this helps us be better prepared for the unforeseen, mysterious, dynamic journey that is Life and better prepared for ventures in the Wilderness.
I recently attended a conference celebrating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act into law in the U.S. These preserved areas of natural lands and waters maintain a special character, “untrammeled” by man and distinctly autonomous. The wilderness is what it is. You cannot predict what will happen there, and you must rely on your own preparation when you visit. By law, there will not be any man-made structures, services, or systems that will provide for you or take responsibility for you. And the experience that you have as solitary and self-reliant can change your life. It is a deeply spiritual endeavor to go into the wilderness and learn from it.
Wilderness asks you two important questions: Are you willing to go there? Are you prepared? I think that the Way – whether that be Christian, Buddhist, or any other spiritual path – asks you the same questions. May your willing preparation and practice be a life-giving process, bringing you much happiness. Peace! – Priscilla
© 2014, essay and photographs, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved