Opinion Columns & Blogs

Lack of politics is the allure of the wilderness

A few days ago, I drove away from a week-long hunting trip in the wilderness with a reinvigorated appreciation of Mother Nature, and of all of the peace and tranquility she offers. I was reminded that the most precious things in life are always found in simplicity, and not necessarily in easiness.

At one point on the sunlit drive, Mt. Hood revealed her glory through the windshield, perched behind the darkened edges of the mighty Columbia, while Mt. Adams lingered in the rear view mirror and beckoned me to stay with her. To say I was bewildered by the beauty that surrounded me would be an understatement.

Then I remembered I had a newspaper column due. In a way it was a big buzz kill: the solitude and serenity that is the wild outdoors suddenly gave way to the din of cars and people, and the seemingly insoluble complexity of human society slapped me squarely in the face. I was going home to Olympia where I had better come up with something to write, and quickly.

“Write about how downtown needs to be cleaned up,” I heard from several people throughout the last eight months. No. Not only do most people already know that downtown Olympia could use a little “cleaning,” I wasn’t ready to anger those who would take offense at such an idea.

Others suggested that I write about the millions of dollars wasted by this or that state agency, or about the homeless problem that seems to be getting worse in our area. No, no, and no. The last time I offered my opinion on one of the “hot button” topics, I was practically deemed Satan-like to many local readers; accused of being everything from lazy to ignorant to racist. Talk about a buzz kill.

I suppose one could say that even though I don’t have plans on running for any political office in the near future, the broaching of such topics is to a great extent, politically incorrect.

Politically incorrect. My mind drifted back to the serenity that I was leaving behind, as the gnarled oak trees adorned in waning green leaves stood contrasted against wheat-yellow grasses on steep hillsides. There is no political incorrectness in the world I was leaving. In truth, there is no politics in nature at all.

Perhaps that is partly the allure of the wilderness. It is a world devoid of politics, of judgment, of dishonesty within species. The human being is the only species I can think of that is dishonest to its own kind. Bears don’t lie to other bears. A hungry boar may eat its own cub, but at least it’s honest.

Nature is simple, being only concerned with obtaining nourishment, repopulating and survival, but it’s far from easy. Humankind, on the other hand, is growing increasingly more complicated in the quest of becoming easier.

For example, we don’t have to get off the couch and drive to the bank, we just take a photo of the check and hit send. We shop on-line from that same couch with a few clicks, and everything from groceries to pet medicine shows up at the door. Easy, but in no way simple.

While humankind is so clever, so far “advanced” compared to the natural world — we need not harvest or hunt our own food any more, weave our own baskets or craft our own clothing — we all too often step on our own kind for personal advance. Sadly, we cheat our friends and brothers and sisters to gain an advantage, and in cold actuality, lie to each other in the name of political correctness.

Crossing the next bridge that welcomed me back to Washington, I tossed aside any thoughts of ire-raising topics. I wasn’t ready to dive back into society head first, to stir the pot, or to obsess about ultimately unimportant things. The appreciation of the natural beauty where I lived was tantamount, and I clung to the peace that reverberated within because of it.

The great poet, Rumi, made the suggestion a long time ago: “Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.” I took his advice for as long as I could, and enjoyed the rest of the drive home.