Friday, August 26, 2016

100th Anniversary of National Parks: May our Paradise Never Be Lost....

"This something we call America lives not so much in political institutions as in its rocks and skies and seas."                                                               --Paul Strand, American photographer

A year ago, on a short flight from Boston to Washington D.C., my daughter struck up a conversation with a man sitting next to her on the plane. After some minutes of conversation about our National Parks (since he was wearing the seal on his jacket), she asked him if he was a ranger. "No," he answered, "I am the director of the National Park Service. My name is Jonathan Jarvis. But yes, I started out as a park ranger in 1976." Since she descends from a family who crisscrossed the country in a rumbling family van to visit national parks, battlefields, and other historical sights from her infancy, he could see her passion for the land he loved too. She said he spoke of the immense treasure we have inherited in America, and how we must be advocates for all countries to protect their cultural and historical heritage. Our national parks do more than inspire. The mountains and seashores, gifts from a benevolent God, give us fuel to be better humans--better caretakers of not only our earth, but future generations. They have been lovingly bequeathed to us, and we must in turn, love and protect them.

This week marks the 100th anniversary of our national parks, iconic landmarks in our country's Treasury that belong to each of us, whether we are rich or poor.  Each is a place of pilgrimage for the soul. Many think a remotely known artist named George Caitlin was the initial spark for the national park idea. In 1832 he wrote after visiting some Indian territories in the West, "By some great political policy of government... in a magnificent park, containing man and beast, in all the wildness and freshness of their nature's beauty." Perhaps Caitlin envisioned only one park, but his idea has blossomed into 450 national historical, recreational and cultural areas. The National Park Service comprises not only parks, but monuments, memorials, military parks, historical sights, parkways, seashores, and river ways. Indeed, we are a rich people of immense fortune.

With an artist's love for the world and its beauty, Caitlin began an American dream that has been fostered now for almost two hundred years. With various trappers, writers, artists, naturalists, and entrepreneurs visiting the West in the mid-19the century, Yellowstone was signed as a National Park in 1872 by Ulysses S. Grant. In 1906 President Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act to protect monuments, caves, and other natural treasures, the first one being Chimney Rock in Wyoming. One decade later, President Woodrow Wilson would sign on August 25, 1916 the beginning of the National Park Service.

One of my favorite presidents is Teddy Roosevelt, known as the Conservation President. But exactly what were the pathways that forged the man that said, "I have always said I would not be president had it not been for my experience in North Dakota (or later known as Badlands National Park)." When Teddy's young 22 year old wife died two days later after their first child was born and his mother died the same day, he teetered between despair and hopelessness. On the day Alice died, Theodore made a large X on the page, and wrote only, "The light has gone out of my life." When he wrote her obituary, he wrote, "And when my hearts's dearest died, the light went out from my life forever." Badlands rescued, changed him. When he went out West to North Dakota to summon his spirit again, the vast openness gave back his life. The boundless prairie, with mostly prairie dogs, instead of people, and the wide, open skies, revived him. The meadowlarks and owls that called from lone trees in the wilderness changed his melancholy despair to happiness again. Later Teddy Roosevelt's grief would be eclipsed, and he would say, "Life is a great adventure. Accept it with such a spirit."

As we enter now a new chapter of protecting our earth from climate change and pollution, we must remember the precious inheritance we have been given. Our earth gives us a sense of place and beauty. But it does more. Mountains are pinnacles and cathedrals in the sky. Rivers and seas wash grief and confusion away. A canopy of bright stars awakens us to new levels of awareness and reverie. Canyons can chisel our fears, shaping us into a new person. A gentle wind can blow new life and enthusiasm into our soul. The routes our souls have taken in the topography of our lives gives us boundless blessings--enriching not only our own souls, but our relationships. Landscapes can shift our fears and misgivings to joy.

Whether we know it or not, the land, revitalizes our spirits. It is God-given, and more necessary than we would ever know. A rippling wind on a grove of quaking aspen trees in Grand Teton National Park allows me to enter a portal of heaven on earth, a place I would never know if it had not been sequestered, protected. May we bring heaven too to all those who follow us by protecting the earth we we born on. It is our duty when we have been cradled in uncommon beauty for so very long.

Happy Birthday to every national park and monument! Thank you for transporting me to the miraculous, the soul-saving--every time I meet one of you. I have been to many of your Treasury, and I will roam and climb until I have seen each one of you....

This summer in my favorite National Park--Grand Teton National Park. Here is a blog from last summer why I love the Tetons so much: Teton Tales 

My daughter and I in Canyonlands National Parks a few years ago. The Southern Utah National Parks have filled me with wonder and awe since I was a child. For one month I knew their topography when I roamed for one month as a teenager there in a BYU survival program.

My daughters in Zion National Park--on a trip with their father.

My husband climbing in Yosemite with my son. Peter was only 10, maybe 11, but he has always spoke of the bonding that happened with his dad on the spires of Yosemite

The three Tetons, an endless fascination for our family with the land. My husband's grandpa helped to conserve the Grand Teton National Park in his jobs with the Department of Interior.

My children joyfully hiking with their dad in the Tetons....

A few years ago hiking The Narrows in Zion National Park. I wrote a blog called Chasing the Light

1 comment:

  1. Mariam, I probably should've made a comment on one of your posts and long time ago, but I've been having too much fun reading about your experiences to take the time to thank you, I guess. So, thank you. For what it's worth, I've been loosely following your blog over the past year or so and I always enjoy reading about you and Joe and your children's experiences, the places you visit and particularly the people you meet. Your ability to see the Hand of God in everyone and every place you go is inspiring. Every time I read one of your posts, I feel motivated to be a better person. I've shared them with my wife and kids and they are always fascinated by the way you describe things. So, please know, the things write about and the photos you take are appreciated by more people then you realize.

    On a personal note... I recently thought back to when I first met you. It was 1982, I believe, and you had recently returned from your mission where you learned Mandarin Chinese. It was a Sunday and I had spent the entire day with your family. I had gone to church, had dinner at your house, probably took a nap there, ate dinner with your family, went to a fireside and then ate home made cookies and sat around the piano and singing until late night. I remember we sang, "Oh that I were an Angel". I think you really loved that song. Your siblings chided you a little bit about your date with Doug Precourt (crazy I remember that.) I peppered you with all kinds of questions about your mission. I remember you describing the Mandarin language and talking about how the meaning of words changed based on the tone or pitch it was spoken at.

    As it got late everyone went to bed and Dana or Ger were sleeping nearby, you said to me..."Well Pat, you've had quite a Mormon day today." We ended up talking I ended up telling you about my struggles and concerns about not being able to be live up to the standards. You helped me understand our purpose here on earth and that God did not expect me to instantly become "perfect". Without lowering the "bar" you somehow made the bar seem much more achievable. It's always stuck with me and I wanted you to know that.

    As far as I'm concerned, just like our national parks, you and the entire Myres family, are a priceless "national treasure."

    Thanks again.