Language shapes reality, and Earth shapes language. To expand that vocabulary, here’s an environmental neologism, a code used alfresco – an Alfrescode – to give voice to a particular phenomenon.
A leopard doesn’t change his spots – so why do human interlopers so often reach for a new coat? Or, for that matter, new boots…new backpacks…new skis…new things so new in their newness…
Too often the answer precedes the question – if the question is ever asked at all. And that answer is automatic and predictable: ‘This new coat makes me a whole new cat!’, they say. As this subconscious ethos animates the contemporary outdoor community, it’s no wonder that sales of outdoor products continue to increase. In the context of this material explosion, the question must be asked: At what price do the outdoors become inextricably consumerist? Does the mountaintop exist to be climbed, or just to be marketed?
Ours is an age defined by refuse – by refusing, that is, to deal with our refuse.
Trash accumulates in all areas of the planet, including – and especially – America’s treasured national parks. A recent, personal, non-scientific survey of Yosemite’s iconic attractions reveals a pernicious aggressor. Few outdoor enthusiasts would encourage littering, yet many cause this offense, often doing so unwittingly. Resolving the issue necessitates a much higher degree of coordination between park officials and attendees.
Scampering downwards below the ridge, my hiking partner found riparian wonder he never before knew existed. Each previous trip to the park constrained this California preserve to rolling, grassy, oakland – whereas schist canyons and rumbling gravelpans and time-pressured wildflowers populate the valleys below.
Like a conspiratorial merchant, blue can elide detail and flatten context within the pleasure it provides. Azure sky can be lustrous and turquoise water can be inviting – almost as if adjectives were more important than verbs. So much effort is expended understanding what the sky means, may mean, and has meant, that we forget our human capacity to survive the depravity of slightly less-warm mornings and hair-adjusting breezes.
Upturned sawed spires mark trails and ways. Winter has turned redwood paws into looping flesh, gauged by the length of the trail now obscured and inaccessible. Human feet have cleared ways around the roots and between the split branches. Rather than obliterate the path, fallen trees suggest potential alternatives, albeit ungracefully. Though the established trail is not nearly so wide nor evident, the way to the next junction is nevertheless possible. Or, in the contemporary argot of conservationists, reduced network access to the outdoors is actually minimal when human ingenuity encounters natural processes.
Certainly, without her presence, she would never quite understand. A gash had opened, but my body was safe, so I couldn’t cut her attention.