The Haw River Paddler
“All truth goes through three steps. First, it is ridiculed, then it is violently opposed, and finally it is accepted as self-evident.” Arthur Schopenhauer
Evidence of an early spring is everywhere along the Haw River. You see it in the activity of birds and the greening of the landscape. You feel it in the air and see it in an increase in the amount of sunlight. You smell it in the soil as people begin to plant their spring gardens. I often think that when it comes time for me to make my transition from this earthly existence, it won’t be in spring. Of course, I am not sure when it will be, but it definitely will not be in spring. There is too much optimism and excitement that comes with this season. It’s time to get outside and hike the trails and paddle the rivers and lakes.
It may have been spring when I first realized that I was in love with Nature. I suppose I am an incurable environmentalist and happy to be one. It is easy to be in a state of love when you see all of the animal and plant life around you. What a gift it is. I suppose it is strange that I can accept Nature on its terms when it sometimes disrupts life like when a hurricane brings torrential rain and destructive wind or you get a tick-born illness. Humans on the other hand can sometimes disrupt or disappoint when your expectations of them are unrealistic. You can count on Nature. There is a consistency in Nature. Spring always comes. Plants always grow. Wild rivers always flow to the sea. Humans aren’t always consistent. They have to be forgiven, and we all have to learn the power of forgiveness.
I can remember many times in my younger life when specific people disappointed me, but I think the first time when humanity disappointed me was when a developer filled in a swamp where I used to play. It seemed so unfair because it was so irreversible. Where were the fish and birds suppose to go? Why did those beautiful cypress trees have to be cut down just to make more streets and houses for people? It just didn’t make sense to me until I realized that developers are putting their need for money and security ahead of the welfare of the life they displace. Sure, life will be better for some people, but what about the rest of Creation. Why does society allow this to happen? Who speaks for the rest of life on earth? Are humans the only ones that matter?
If you are as old as I am, you will remember the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. In those days, the three major television stations not only reported the news, but also had someone do a commentary. For CBS, it was Eric Sevareid. Mr. Sevareid was a respected World War II correspondent who, like Walter Cronkite, “told it like it was”. In his own words, Mr. Sevareid had the quality of being “socially conservative and politically liberal”. Immediately after graduating from high school, he paddled a canoe 2,500 miles from Minneapolis, MN to Hudon Bay in Canada to prove that it was possible to float the continent’s heartland entirely by water. His adventure led to his first book in 1935 entitled “Canoeing With the Cree”. So, why do I tell you this story about Eric Sevareid. I tell this story because I remember one of his commentaries. He talked about the irony of people cutting down trees and digging up the earth in the name of progress being called conservatives while those wanting to save some of Nature for humanity being called liberals. He was pointing out that environmentalists may actually be conservatives, but are called liberals.
As an environmentalist, does that make me liberal or conservative, a good person or a bad person? Does that put me in the same category of someone who sits in the top of a giant redwood tree so that it is not cut down or does it put me in the category of a business person who puts people out on the Haw River so that they feel connected to their Creator? Does it really matter at all what label I have or does it matter that I care for the health and welfare of all of life on this planet?
You hear a lot these days that we are a divided people. We are putting labels on each other that puts us into categories. Those categories inaccurately define us. We are one and not separate because we are all living creatures, and living creatures need food that is not toxic, air that is clean, and water that is not polluted . We need each other to do our part in making sure that the life support system we call Nature keeps providing us with what it takes to survive on this planet; until we make our transition.