Rick Bass - W" I74 ° THE WILD MARSH ack up to the...

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Unformatted text preview: W" I74 ° THE WILD MARSH ack up to the house —where has the morning gone? It always ‘ 5 ms as if I’ve done nothing but sit there and feast on the col "1 gren, or green and gold, as if on a meal, and nothing else, as ' I ‘. have ~ nly taken, and have given nothing. And when I walk int r the“ cool ho se, with 1ts high downstairs ceilings, the girls will h ar me enter an will begin calling out the plans for the day, inco : orat . me into watever play of the moment is transpiring, w ether ital; Barbies, or 1 tering their garden, or playing m the wan g pool, or dressing the c t up, or swinging on the swing set, or - acking for “, picnic, or a trip 0 this or that lake, or this or that aterfall: in o‘ ' poratmg me, in t t fashion, into their day, their 4 ays, as July itse‘ f incorporates us all u to the middle of the brai f summer. And " ., July, things feel calme less rushed, as if, for o ' ce, you truly can safi, if you want to, Clbmorro 1. tomorrow . . . gon, marjoram, fennel, cu is, but I think it is somethin sweet, ' I’m going to stop . d try to grunt—wrestle it 1 battered old truc . It is these rocks, so level .~ shap -. 5 lens, with the middle tw1ce as long is either the begin the nd. age is August, but here it is, July, and my life, this year, is July in- , side of July. The girls love to go on picnics, even to the point that they’ll hike for an hour or more to favorite spot — a little tumbling waterfall or a certain lake. (Both girls, when each was younger, for many years, pronounce the word pig-net; they loved them before they knew the _ name for them.) They love to park their straw hampers with chips and apples and grapes and bread, and they love to cook hamburgers over the fire. When we go to the lake, I’ll carry the canoe, portag- ing it ridiculously far into the woods, along with life vests and such, and we’ll take turns, two or three at the time, when paddling around out on one of those round lakes; and for the life of me, I can’t tell if I’m helping to teach them leisure or industriousness. We walk a long way, sometimes, with the girls carrying their baskets, and yet once to our spot, wherever it is, we’ll lounge in the green grass or on some huge and perfectly tilted slab of rock. We’ll wade in the clean creek, or swim, without our life vests on, in the clean lake. Perhaps I am confusing the word luxury with leisure. Is privilege the right word for this life — and for being able to show the girls such places, such things? We’re conditioned to be- lieve this, I think, and while I bear great gratitude to the world for all of its beauty and richness and bounty, I also sometimes grow angry with myself, and even defensive, when I find myself falling too much into that trap of thinking in those terms. The girls — and Elizabeth and I — are lucky to know such a vital landscape, with its pieces still intact; we’re even fortunate, and yes, it’s true, we’re even privileged. And yet there’s a part of me too that knows, even if dimly and far beneath the surface, that such natural treasures were once eve- ryone’s birthright, that landscape was inseparable from being, and that one no more had to ponder the issues of clean air, clean water, and the presence of grizzly bears and bald eagles and old forests than one did one’s own name, or identity. There was gratitude and wonder, even awe, and yes, a feeling of privilege, I’m sure, even be- fore these things becarne rare. But somewhere across the genera— tions, I think our vision of landscape has been worn down in this r76 ' THE WILD MARSH culture, so that gradually we have ceded an understanding that our ‘ public lands and parks are owned by us into a vision instead in which they are a commodity, so rare have they become, and that they are to be managed by industry, even as we understand that industrywill I not be kind to them. I don’t know. I’m angry and joyful both. It’s an incredible privi- ‘ lege — I guess that’s the right word, after all. But still, I want to argue that it’s more luck or good fortune than privilege. Privilege seems to possess a faint air of special entitlement — entitlement . beyond the norm, available only to the elite, and that, of course, is ‘j precisely how the industrial elite would like it. There’s not an hour of my life that passes up here, I don’t think,‘ without my being aware, sometimes acutely, of my good luck, my; good fortune. But still, I balk at that word privilege, for once such S; world belonged to all of us, or at least the option or possibility .1" such aworld before it was taken from us, before we failed to prote oJ, sufficient quantities of it from our own appetites, for the future. z | I do believe that clean air, clean water, and wild mountains . u old forests are our birthrights; that a wild and healthy landscan, is, or should be, a constitutional right, a freedom, to be protect and celebrated. And as with any right, there is an attendant resp a sibility. if I want the foundation of it — this luck — to be set within ‘ foundations, like stone, of who they are. AndJuly will still beJul not for another ten thousand years, then for while longer an H. with or without the perceived right and responsibilities of one s v.‘ cies, human beings, and with or without those emotions of awe a). gratitude, as well as fear and anger and love. I will try hard onl; paint with the green and gold brush of the month —— to celebr-wl not lament, and to not question tomorrow — but the reader n65», to know of this confusion. (As, I suspect, the girls are already a 55 to some extent, even if as a current running just beneath the * lg face —— a hidden creek, trickling beneath a talus pile of jumble-1 'chen-clad boulders.) - _ There are times when I forget my fear for the future of fly landscape, and when I exist only in the green moment. And ma v that’s what this narrative is about: trying to isolate those mom ' from the periods of nearly daunting fear, and even outrage. filly ' I77 They do still exist, those utterly green moments. And I find them more often within the girls’ company than not. 'yJuly, the garden is up, even in such a northern landscape as t ' o e. The girls have their own little fenced—in patch, and they w — der ’t in the evenings, snapping peas off the bush and dro ing abou very third one into the pan for dinner while eating t first two, an then, on the walk back up the hill, they’ll browse a n those that man _ed to get into the pan in the first place, so t .t we’ll be lucky if eve . three for four make it to the dinner table. Am I bei ; too soft on them? Should I be sterner . d insist on a firmer demarca ion between the harvest in the co umption? Am I servmg them po 1y to take pleasure in this Land vaguely feral method of seeing t at they eat a balanced diet? Somehow, it see s a partJuly. .The days are getti 3, shorter, though w will have not yet really noticed it yet. If anythi 1 -— as we beco e more and more accus- tomed to, and comfortab .- with, the r ythms of summer — it will even seem to us that they ar - still len hening. A bath, brush your teeth, - d , en story time, alternating be— tween Mary Katherine’s room .n d Lowry’s. Old filler; Savage Sam Tbe Hobbit, Harry Potter and the ’ b ber of Secrets. Treasure bland. , Day after day there is a s ene , a suspension, that comes in July- I was wrong about sa 'ng those rock alls we’re building — rock walls leading nowher neither contai ' g nor restricting any- thing — serve no pu ose. And likewise, I ink the July summer days have purpose, ven if in untraditional o unquantifiable ways. Even if their purp a se is to have no purpose. Beauty, and est, alone. The irony s that it’s not entirely restful, for E . abeth and me. Mentally, it reinvigorating, but physically, under a orthern sum- mer’s hei tened and ambitious pace, it can become xhausting. Cook la - , after getting in from the lake, clean dishes, -g the girls to be: , read for a few minutes — suddenly it’s midnight. \ . early the , with the world growing light again so soon (the girls sle - u on: u 11 nine, sometimes ten o’clock in the morning), and do it all ver -, -ain. ...
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