Monday, May 26, 2014

Are Parks for the People?

I have been reading Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire in preparation for a trip to Utah's National Parks.  As I think about getting our pop-up ready for the summer season, I think about what he had to say about crowded parks being like little cities.

That is exactly the same thought I had as we camped last year in a state park near Atlanta.  At first I was happy to see all the families out in nature...until I looked closely at what they were doing and saying.  Kids riding bikes.  Light shows around trailers. Loud talking around the campfires. Adults were talking about what camping supplies they had and where to get them.  Kids were talking about playing games and what type of dog they had.  Dog walkers set off a round of early morning barking by every canine in the park.

What is interesting is how the park cleared out after the weekend and nature returned:  the chickadee was chirping, the frog calling. Gone were the sounds of speedboats and trucks along the campground roads.  Now the crows claimed their supremacy over the morsels left behind.  Finally, this was a place of peace and solitude, a place to appreciate nature.  But what about those others who had left?  What is green space when it is packed with people?  Where is the communion with nature when overpowered by the presence of  too many people?

I am reminded of a quote from Aldo Leopold's foreword to Sand County Almanac: "There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot." Count me among those who cannot!  My concern is that I will not be able to find the find the solitude I seek.  Certainly, I will not be camping this weekend, Memorial Day.  I know better than to do that.

I wish there were places for people like me.  Abbey referred to this problem in his book.  When Desert Solitaire was published in 1968, the National Park Service slogan was "Parks are for people."  But Abbey alerted readers to the problems of development of these last great wilderness areas. While the developments allowed more people in to the parks, he suggested that you can bring people to nature, but you can't make them appreciate it.  That is exactly the experience I had near Atlanta.  And in fact, the sheer numbers of people can impact the appreciation and enjoyment of nature.

If parks are for people, what about people like me? Where is my park?  During this summer season, I will probably have to stay home.  My park is the one after everyone has left for the season or gone back to work after the weekend.  My park is getting harder and harder to find.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Three Generations of Bug Lovers

On my granddaughter's third birthday, I decided to expand her nature study beyond birds.  It was time to explore the world of insects.  So, I sent off a package of tools for insect study: a field guide, magnifier, and collection jar.  Simple.  Later in the evening, my daughter sent me a photo of what they found:
Even though I could not be there, I can imagine the squeals of joy as she found this praying mantis....right in her backyard.

That got me to thinking about the many times my husband and I would point out insects to our kids.  The insect world is so diverse and fascinating.  AND abundant in our big backyard in the country. We saw ant lions, wheel bugs, velvet ants, and many more.

And this fascination with the insects can be traced back another my own childhood.  Even though I grew up in a city, I remember catching fireflies on a summer's evening.  Great fun.

I can't wait to go bug hunting with my granddaughter on her next visit to the country.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Nature Lover Revisited

Previously in this blog I wrote a post called "Tribute to a Nature Lover", dedicated to my mom.  The words I wrote then are no less true today, Mother's Day. While my mom is not with me this Mother's Day, she fills my thoughts.  So I created a Wordle from that blog.  This reveals the one constant for me in the memory of my mom--her love of nature and family.