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Archive for the tag “Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park”

Ready for a Familiar Bed…The End of the Road, Almost!

Ready for a Familiar Bed...The End of the Road, Almost!

Ready for a Familiar Bed…The End of the Road, Almost!

Storms in Colorado mirroring, sort of, the deadly storms in Oklahoma, scratching items off my bucket list such as the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and a dirt road adventure in a Prius yesterday that was exciting and even scary at times coupled with five days with a fifteen-year old grandson all makes me ready for my own bed…but not quite yet. As I write this (not when it actually gets posted) it is 98 degrees in Phoenix and I have taken refuge in our hotel room as my wife and grandson lounge around the pool baking in the shade. Somehow, placing myself in a warming oven doesn’t have significant appeal as I am about to enter my eighth decade on this earth. I much prefer the comfort of the room which is holding at a most comfortable 72 degrees.

We spent the better part of our last day in Phoenix at the Phoenix Science Center, a collection of science exhibits, a planetarium and a simply extraordinary exhibit exploring the genius of Leonardo DaVinci. We took in an I-Max 3-D film on the design and construction of the Boeing 787. While the film was interesting, it is always difficult to watch a movie in 3-D so for much of the film I simply closed my eyes. We also took in an informative, if not well narrated, sky show in the planetarium in which we were whisked to the very edges of the universe and back again all in under one hour. Had the live narrator said, “You guys,” one more time, however, I think I might have murdered her. With a good lunch in the museum in between all this adventure we spent nearly six hours exploring the exhibits, presentations and films on offer.

It is late afternoon now and I am relaxing in the hotel. Tonight we are going out to celebrate our grandson’s fifteenth birthday which seems to make him older than I could possibly imagine as well as my seventieth birthday which begs the question of how did I get this old this fast? With a good dinner and celebrations out of the way, Susan and I will get back on the road in the morning (about the time this post goes live) and start back home. With some planned and some unplanned stops along the way, we should arrive home exhausted sometime on Sunday or Monday…who knows. What I do know is that traveling is an important way to understand one’s roots and one’s priorities.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

On this trip, it became clearer to me than ever before that I have an ethical responsibility to work to repair our planet, to protect it from further commercially inspired harm, if not for myself, for my children, grandchildren and generations still not even being considered. Our planet is a fragile place, a place which evolved a delicate balance which is being disrupted by the greed of mankind. From strip mining to clear cutting forests, from depletion of eons old aquifers rather than engage in sustainable dry land farming to the despoiling of the lakes and oceans with garbage dumping and pollutants being washed into the water supply, we are at an environmental crossroads. It is not enough to delay solutions to the problems that we ourselves create. It is time to take ethical responsibility and say no to corporate polluters, to greedy mine owners, to those who would anger Mother Nature for their own immediate and personal gain, to those who allow themselves to be purchased by special interests while claiming to represent people. As Sugarland urges, “Stand up and use your voice.” It is good advice. It is time to stand up and be counted.

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Natural Beauty, Humility and Stature: Thinking in Jewish 45

Natural Beauty, Humility and Stature: Thinking in Jewish 45

Natural Beauty, Humility and Stature: Thinking in Jewish 45

Last night at dinner our server, a delightful woman named Amy, and I got to talking about places to visit in order to take in the natural wonders of the Southwestern United States. I think the conversation began when Amy and my wife began comparing ski resorts but it quickly evolved to places we have been. We spoke of the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, and Saguaro National Park when I mentioned that I had just checked off Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park from my bucket list. Amy then commented, “It surely makes you feel small, almost insignificant, when you see the beauty of this world. The time it took to carve these magnificent landscapes and the short time we are here to enjoy them.” The only thing she left out of her comment, but it was clearly on the tip of her tongue, was the God which obviously created these landscapes. I don’t mean to put words in her mouth, for she didn’t actually add the bit about God, but I was certain that she didn’t want to offend by making God a central character in the drama of nature.

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison

To a large extent, her restraint was refreshing. I have been in similar situations where my interlocutor was not so thoughtful nor so humble. More often than not, the fundamentalist Christian response to such a conversation about natural wonders includes the notion that the creator God made this beauty in order to humble mankind, to make us feel insignificant in order to understand the power of the creator. To that I generally respond, “Poppycock!” There is no reason to believe that there is a creator God because of the natural forces that shaped the wonders of our planet. In fact, there are geological explanations that trump the mystic late Bronze and early Iron Age mythologies, no matter whose mythologies one chooses to adapt.

While natural wonders tend to humble the viewer, one does not require a creator God in order to be humbled by the grandeur of the natural world. To the contrary, humility comes from the eons required for a small, rather insignificant, river to carve through layers of stone to create a canyon which one can stand in awe of. The geological forces required to converge to create the canyons and mountains that make us breathe a bit quicker as we stand in their glory (religious terminology need not be exclusive to religious belief) explain a great deal without removing the humbling effect of these natural wonders. Standing on the rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, looking nearly straight down on to the Gunnison River some 2,000 feet below, hearing the rush of the water as it continues (albeit more slowly than ever because the dams upstream limit the flow of water through the canyon floor) to carve through layers of rock, is truly something to stand in awe of but not something to attribute to the whims of a creator God. Beauty need not be compromised by failing to understand the science contributing to the creation of these magnificent structures. Amen.

Responsibility for Earth…It Is The Only Home We Have!

Responsibility for Earth...It Is The Only Home We Have!

Responsibility for Earth…It Is The Only Home We Have!

Responsibility for Earth...It Is The Only Home We Have!

Responsibility for Earth…It Is The Only Home We Have!

I spent the day yesterday in the wilderness of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Western Colorado. Set in the Western Rockies, quite near the San Juan Range, the Black Canyon is a magnificent example of untouched wilderness (except that the Gunnison River runs with less force and less water than ever because of dams up river). Driving just the day before, through the center of the Rocky Mountains, through the Vail Pass on I-70, I cringed at several examples of strip mining that simply level magnificent mountains by stripping away the whole mountain to find the small deposits of ore that bring the mining company a profit. I couldn’t help but think about the film Treasure of Sierra Madre when the gold mine ran out and the old miner insisted that before they left the mountain the three partners put the mountain back to its pristine condition. The whole idea was that the mountain was good to them so they had the responsibility to be good to the mountain. That responsibility meant that greed could not out strip the ethical action was forgotten; to the contrary, it was paramount in the mind of at least one of the partners and the others saw the wisdom in the action.

Comparing the beauty found in nature against the strip mining operations that pillage the natural beauty of the land for profit is something we all should do. The question is simply this: Does earning a profit outweigh the ethical responsibility to destroy the very land we must live on and with? I suggest that making a reasonable profit, one that is based not on greed but on an ethical responsibility to preserve the beauty of nature. In addition, the ethical responsibility extends to people in the sense that there is an important responsibility to those from whose labor served to produce those profits. In short, there is no excuse for strip mining a mountain to oblivion, paying miners low wages, and earning obscene profits other than greed.

The image in the upper right was shot at an overlook at the Black Canyon’s South Rim. The canyon, carved over a 2-million year period, is a pristine wilderness preserved for people around the United States and the world. Once one leaves the confines of the National Park, however, the land no longer pristine or preserved. Fenced in pastures, rusting cars in yards, dammed rivers and streams, broken down barns, buildings and equipment all serve to remind one of the importance of the preservation of wilderness as a reminder of our responsibility to do no harm to the world we live in. Just because one can strip mine or clear-cut forests or despoil the oceans or spew pollutants into the atmosphere doesn’t mean we should. In fact, the shortsighted pollution of the only place we call home is without honor or morality.

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