Friday, December 23, 2011

Wilderness


     Why do we need wild places? I mean seriously, in this day and age of technology, is it really all that important to have wilderness? Debates rage on about drilling for oil in Alaska or off shore in the Gulf.  So what if it interferes with the migration of a few caribou or mucks things up for some salt water fish species, right? As advanced as we’ve become as a society, is all this “outdoors” really necessary?

     Well, for this guy, I don’t think I could survive without wild places. Sure, I’ll probably never see an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico and I doubt that I’ll be heading to the Brooks Range of Alaska anytime soon, but even here in Switzerland County, I need wilderness or at least our Southern Indiana version of such…I’m nearly 43 years old, but it doesn’t take much for my mind to revert back to that of a 12 year old boy reading every article I could in Outdoor Life, Field and Stream or Sports Afield. Writers like Ted Trueblood, Homer Circle and Jim Zumbo filled my imagination with wonder when I read about their hunting and fishing adventures. I was convinced that I’d be right there in the pages of an outdoor magazine some day. But, like most of us, as I got older and the reality of life set in, those thoughts and ideas of a 12 year old boy settled into the farthest corners of my mind. They’re never forgotten, but they just rest there most of the time, hibernating as the demands of work, family, bills, and all the other adult responsibilities take their place. It’s sad when you think about how life has a way of robbing us of our youthful, innocent ideals…But, then it happens. That first cool morning in September or just a slight chill in the breeze and the poplar trees get a hint of orange and yellow in their leaves. All those adventures that I had read about come rushing back and my mind is that of a teenage boy again. I know soon that I will be in my Neverland and perched on the side of a tree with a bow in my hand overlooking a well worn trail just like I have done dozens and dozens of times over the years. In my imagination, I could just as easily be in the Rockies chasing bugling elk or in the Yukon pursuing a rutting bull moose. For the moment, I’m Jeremiah Johnson or Saxton Pope and Art Young or any number of legendary outdoors figures from the past. My ears listen intently to every sound I hear. My eyes scan the woods for any movement, for the twitch of an ear or the flick of a tail that might give the deer away. I am totally and completely caught up in my “wild” space. I am alive again! And just as I’m about to watch a heard of caribou pass by in my mind, I hear the kids playing soccer at the elementary school just across the cornfield from my tree stand and I have to laugh at myself and my boyish imagination and I’m snapped back to the reality that is.

     We all need wild places to go. A park, some woods, a field, a creek, wherever it is. It can be the mountains of the West, huge boreal forests in the North or even a 60 acre piece of woods along SR250 in East Enterprise. Maybe your wild place is mowing the back yard or watching birds come into your feeder just outside the kitchen window. Whatever it is, don’t ever let go of your “wilderness”.