The Power of Water

The power of water rushing down a steep streambed or launching into space to crash in spray at the base of a waterfall is tremendous. It reminds us of the power and wonder of this rich world of which each of is part.

This summer is going to be loaded with water–to nourish plants and trees and to inspire. Enjoy!

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The mountains are singing

News radio is abuzz about high water in Yosemite Valley from the snowmelt above. We’ve had a bumper snow year and the mountains are singing. Water and spray are everywhere below the snowline, watering fresh new vegetation.

I’ve been in these mountains in spring–everywhere I go I can hear running water–dripping, gurgling, rushing, roaring. It forms a grand symphony to soothe the soul and to inspire.

There’s a hymn: This is my father’s world; and to my listening ears all nature sings and ’round me rings the music of the spheres.” Exactly!

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National monuments–we all own them

On April 26 President Trump signed an executive order directing the Department of  the Interior to review National Monuments created within the past 20 years with an eye toward rescinding or downsizing them. The aim is to allow commercial development on those lands.

I’m a product of my experiences in California’s Sierra Nevada–among its peaks and forests. I’ve wandered through the magnificent redwood forests of the national monuments bracketing Sequoia National Park, north and south. I’ve admired those huge trees, many of whose ages span over a thousand years. I would hate to see them cut to simply fill out the bottom line of a timber company.

You see, I believe these forests and their trees are much more valuable–to you, the reader, and to me. National monuments, land set aside for their natural and/or historical value, are federal lands. This means that it belongs to each one of us. It belongs to you and it belongs to me.

This was brought home to me in one of my most intense spiritual experiences; it has shaped my life.

Lakelet above Lyell Canyon north of Donohue Pass, Yosemite National Park

After spending several days backpacking along the John Muir Trail, we had a layover day at the lower lake of the Lake Marjorie chain, north of Pinchot Pass. After a leisurely day of soaking in the beauty, before dinner I wandered to a veiwpoint overlooking the Upper Basin and deepening valley of the  South Fork of the Kings River. A beam of light from the setting sun shone through a low point on the divide across the valley. It was quiet and peaceful.

As I sat, I considered that this was federal land, held for its natural qualities and for the enjoyment and inspiration of all. This meant that I shared in its ownership; it belonged to me as well as to every other American.

Then I realized that this ownership went far deeper than in the legal sense. These inspiring mountains, lakes, streams and forests belonged to me, personally, at the deepest possible level of my being. I was overcome by emotion–awe and  thankfulness for such a blessing.

I have gone on to earn my Master’s in geology, work at camps and a ski touring center, and volunteer for the Sierra Club, all with the abiding knowledge that I am, as well as is everyone else, an owner and steward of this amazing world of which I am an inseparable part.

 

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The quiet of the mountains

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A quiet winter pause

With all that’s going on in national politics and world news, it’s a welcome break to spend some time in the quiet of the winter mountains. The Sierra has been getting lots of snow this year, so it’s time to put on the skis! The deep snow absorbs sound; as we pause, it’s quiet and peaceful. We stand here amid the snow-covered trees and mountains. Somewhere out of sight, squirrels are hanging out in their burrows or getting nuts from their caches. Chipmunks are peacefully hibernating. The world is running smoothly. And we, as living, breathing animals, are part of this. We remember: the world is in good hands; this means each of us is too. It’s good to know.

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Sno-cone trees

Saplings covered with snow. The one in the middle will straighten as the snow melts from its top.

Saplings covered with snow. The one in the middle will straighten as the snow melts from its top.

The deep snows of January this year remind me of some winters at Montecito-Sequouia Lodge, where I lived and worked in the ski touring program. It lies at 7,200 feet elevation on the Generals Highway between Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
One crisp morning after a snowfall I went exploring in the woods near the buildings. I fo;und myself surrounded by young red firs whose still-short branches, extending to below the snowline, were nearly completely covered with snow.

At the edge of a small clearing were five smaller trees. Two had been bent over at the tips by a previous recent snowfall; last night’s snowfall had mantled them again, further bending the tops until they pointed back toward the trunks.

A third was completely covered except for a space a few inches wide where I could see into the interiour of the tree. The other two made their presence known only by conical mounds a foot and a half or two feet tall projecting above the flat snow surface.

Natural sno-cones–of the purest, cleanest material–snow precipitated out of our atmosphere–the atmosphere we breathe and upon which we depend for life. It’s an unimagionable blessing to be made part of this system of wonder and beauty. I breathe the air that flows among the trees and peaks of the mountains. I breathe it here as I write this.

Let’s do our part to help keep our atmosphere clean.

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Space

View south from Monarch Divide, Kings Canyon National Park

View south from Monarch Divide, Kings Canyon National Park

Standing on the crest of an 11-thousand foot ridge above the South fork of the Kings River, I look down toward the river, out of sight over 6,000 feet below. The early morning sun lights east-facing slopes.

As I lift my eyes the view expands to ridges and peaks stretching to the distant horizon. I am overcome by a feeling of both depth and space. The scale is huge and the expanse is unlimited, from the rocks at my feet to the depths of the canyon, to the faraway peaks, and the limitless sky above.

This is truly a world with an inconceivable range of dimensions and processes–from the atomic and submicroscopic level; to the building blocks of rocks, soil and life; to the rich ecology of life from tiny microbes to giant Sequoias, rich forests, animals, birds, fish, ourselves, and the food we eat.

What a privilege and blessing to have been made part of all this–me, you and every living being at the very deepest level!  Prayer of thanks.

 

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The Earth is Moving

As we look across the landscape from a viewpoint, the earth seems to go on and on without a sense of curvature. However, we know that we actually are standing at one point on an immense sphere–much too large to comprehend except in mere numbers.

Deep within this immense sphere slow convection is taking place in the deep mantle. This drives movements at the surface–plate tectonics in which ocean basins split open, ocean floor subducts under continents to melt, forming the cores of mountain ranges such as the Sierra; and continents collide to form mountain systems such as the Himalaya.

In New Zealand, two such plates grind and twist past each other, creating constant upheavals of the landscape. These upheavals create the breathtaking scenery of the Southern Alps, culminating in 12,000 foot Aoraki (Mt. Cook)–and occasional shattering earthquakes. Now, a scant 6 years after the earthquake that devastated Christchurch’s downtown, another earthquake has closed highways and cut off towns near the South Island’s northeastern coast, raising the sea floor there as much as two metres.

As I try (unsuccessfully) to fully comprehend the magnitude of our Earth and its dynamic processes and teeming life–and the solar system, galaxy and universe, I’m reminded that I’m part of all this–personally, at the deepest possible level. Awesome and empowering. I’m part of this powerful universe–I’m powerful and empowered to do many things–as is each of us!

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