Prior to, and soon after arriving in the wild west, I received earnest advice on what to do if confronted by a bear, and none of it seemed particularly satisfacory. “Don’t run”. That’s not particularly assuring, it merely eliminates one option. “Cover yourself in faeces”. Whose? Mine? The bear’s? It hardly seems a timely mechanism for avoiding having my head separated from my shoulders by a grizzly mother with PMT. But I was thrilled to be considering my options. PROPER animals to interact with. Over the first five days in Colorado I’ve encountered elk, deer, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, hummingbirds and wildflowers. So far bears, mountain lions and rattlesnakes have proven elusive, probably for the best when I’m wearing flip flops, whomever I’m hiking with will have a considerable advantage.
Some of the most enjoyable days of my life have been spent in the outbacks of various nations, and of these some of the very best were horseback rides with my sister. From early evening treks through the “fairy chimneys”, in Cappodoceia, to thrilling canters across unpredictable pastures in Rodez, I’ve found myself in novel environments on noble nags. And I feel linked again to that greater world which lies beyond the human enclosures of Paris, Prague and Budapest. I see one of our largest issues as a species as our separation of ourselves from “nature”. We forget our place within the natural world, that we too are animals, and that it isn’t the environment that owes us a living. We take, and forget to give. We look at the consequences of our actions and lifestyles without considering their impact on the rest of the world.
I am not a vegetarian. I’ve cooked beasts (ok, and vegan stews) for a living, and I take too much pleasure from being able to taste anything from any culture. Admittedly this may be tested when I head to Iceland, the home of the rotted shark concoction, Hakari. I’m an omnivore, I was born with incisors for a reason, and I really can’t think of a solid vegan alternative to a spit roast. I don’t see this as arrogance, a placement of myself above the creatures I consume. I see it as an understanding of my position in the food chain, and a respect for a natural order that has existed for several thousand generations. But I make efforts to choose to eat humanely raised and slaughtered animals where possible, and to educate myself further in how my choices affect my environment.
Societies that remain somewhat closer to their roots, the aboriginal tribes around the world, still tell the stories of our place within nature. They have a host of cautionary tales about what happens when we forget that we’re linked to the seas, the earth, the whales and the eagles. I think these should be told to more of our children, and that those children should be encouraged to interact with the natural world, rather than fear or distrust it. Through comparing notes with others I have grown to appreciate how fortunate I was to be chased by “horsey girls” across rolling farmland, hearts pumping for so many reasons. To be forced up trees to evade farm dogs, and then squat amongst the branches with my friends, eating Vegemite sandwiches until the canines below found new distractions. Come to think of it, maybe they were just after the yeasty treats. Many of the most exhilarating moments of my life have involved tangling with nature, and I think that these adventures helped me build a respect for the world around me.
Since the various empires of man spread about the world, and eliminated so many barriers to their growth, the arrogance of our species has swollen. And now commerce is placed before all other considerations, by all corporations, some governments and too many citizens. I honestly think it is good for us to understand that we are all part of something greater, that our actions have consequences, and that nothing is forever. The world’s most powerful economies have been rejuvenated by the instigation of wars for too long. If we treat the reversing of our environmental negligence with as much enthusiasm as we do for hunting down mythical weapons of mass destruction, we could eliminate national debts by doing something positive.
I wonder who the Governor of Colorado is…