Saturday, July 1, 2017

Small talk to big questions

Windows condense with water that slowly forms frosty, crystalline patterns across the panes of glass. Steam swirls up in lazy spirals from a mug held by hands barely emerging from a warm blanket as the smell of wood smoke and the crackling sounds of a fire fill the room. Winter’s chill is held at bay.
The scent of freshly turned dirt is in the air as a shovel rips through the earth. Dandelions and nettles lay limp in a wheelbarrow as herbs and vegetables find new homes in the black dirt. The sound of a hose hisses through the air as sweat drips from tired brows. The seeds have been sown and soon summer will bring ripened fruit.

                There is a rush of bubbles with the first dive into water. The sun is squiggly and bright through the freshly made waves. Air rushes out of burning lungs as hands and legs push and pull towards the surface. With one more stretch of arms and hands breath is caught in a glimmering shower of water droplets, creating ripples around the emerged diver.
                Leaves crunch under sturdy boots. Muscles strain to reach the top of the hill. A pack is shifted on the stiff shoulders of a weary hiker. Birds chirp merrily in the yellow leaved trees. A few more steps and the crest is reached. Bright yellows, reds, and oranges and the dusky, golden hue of ripe corn cover the earth in a vibrant patchwork quilt. The gentle breeze brings the scent of damp dirt and chilly air, a gentle reminder of the cold season to come.

                I find it hard to share memories of experiences with other people. I worry that they will find my perspective on hiking through the autumn woods or jumping off a dock into the open water boring. But here in Wisconsin we always have a go to point of conversation. The weather. I know if I related my pastimes to the weather in someway we'll have something to talk about. Everyone has some sort of weather story for every season. The weather here is endlessly interesting to us for the havoc it can wreak and the beauty it can bring with each passing season. We unite ourselves on this topic of shared impact, but lately I have been thinking of another kind of impact.
                When hiking through the trees I once only admired for their beauty I keep my eye out for invasive species, like buckthorn and garlic mustard. Before swimming in lakes and oceans I check to make sure the toxic bacteria levels are not too high. While planting in the spring I wonder if all of my soil and fertilizers stay just where I put them or if they go adventuring while I’m not looking. In the winter, when I am curled up with my tea and blanket, I hope that we will get enough snow this year. I hope that it will get cold enough to hold off some of the less savory invertebrates.
                I love where I grew up. I love most of the places I have visited on our beautiful planet. But there are very few places, even in our National Parks or the very depths of the ocean, that lay unaffected by human hands. I wonder a great deal how that impacts the other living creatures we share our planet with. Through my simple pastimes (that perhaps many of you also enjoy) and talking about the weather (which I know you do) I have found a pursuit that I may not finish in my lifetime. How have humans changed the world? How has the world reacted? If we can, should we try to change it back?


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