Egrets are medium-sized, slender herons. They are covered in all white feathers, up until their long black legs, which run into their eye-catching yellow feet. At first glance, this bird seems plain, but once its plumage is on display it is obvious why so many want to catch a glimpse of this bird. The plumage of snowy egrets was once so desired for fashion that they neared extinction. In the beginning of the chapter, Williams mentions the Wasatch mountains with its snow-covered peaks. These images of white and snow are then linked to the coldness Williams’ mother feels in the hospital. Much as the Snow egrets had to fight to stay alive Williams’ mother must now also fight. Snow egrets are family driven. Males and females take turns guarding eggs. The only time snow egrets are known to make noise is while they are nesting sites. This importance of family and standing by them is seen in how Williams’ stays in the hospital with her mother while her family members are downtown helping stop the flood. Williams stays by her mother’s side and trys to protect her from the pain she is feeling. The raspy and begging calls of the snowy egrets as they protect their family is imedately understood by anyone who as spent time in a hosptial trying to protect a loved one from their own battle.
When home, I work at an ice skating rink in the city of Fishers, which is a city over from where I live. Fishers has changed drastically throughout my life and recently has been changing even more rapidly. When I was younger Fishers was a small town. It had a few neighborhoods and a quaint main street downtown. There was no traffic or construction. It was a tightknit small town that was mainly reliant on agriculture. It is fair to say these corn and soybean fields were not natural either, but they felt so much more natural than what is now standing in their place.
Over time more the construction of more neighborhoods lead to more businesses. Eventually, this tiny town became a very large one. One grocery store now competes with three others. A second high school was built to accommodate the growing population. Dozens of roundabouts were also put in the place of traffic lights (roundabouts have become a staple of progress and wealth in Indiana due to the city of Carmel’s obsession with them.) After a vote, this little town took the leap to become a full-fledged city, with a major and everything.
The city of Fishers is now a booming place to be, as long as you do not mind a five-minute drive taking somewhere around twenty-five minutes. All of the news lately has been, “did you hear Fishers is getting an Ikea”, “did you hear Fishers is getting a Portillos” and so on. Now I cannot complain about having an Ikea or a Portillos in the least. I am glad I can now get cheap furniture without driving to Cincinnati and that I can finally get a decent hot dog and a piece of chocolate cake, to die over, without driving to Chicago. Both of these businesses brought jobs to the area, but what about the farmers whose livelihood was the fields where these businesses now stand? What about the small town that has been engulfed by commerce?
Farms may not be the most natural or always environmentally conscious places, but there is something to be said about working with your hands and working on a farm. This has been lost in Fishers. Not only are there no longer farms, backyards are not even big enough for gardens. A whole way of life has been lost in the need for “progress”.
A cold wind blows through the old oak barn. Before reaching this point it must have blown past the grazing Belgium draft horses and the pony hitched to a cart, tied up at the edge of the barn. It would have blown past the jersey’s lining up to be milked and the fermented corn feed being placed in throughs. All of these smells now linger in the loft of the barn. They are comforting much like a warm blanket. Cats are longingly meowing, cows are anxiously mooing, and horses are neighing. These are typical farm sounds. Beyond the noise of the farm, the chirping of birds can be heard. This is such a peaceful place. These sounds are soon washed out but the roar of a generator, which is used to power a few lights and a milking machine. The roar is a reminder that this is a working farm. This farm is a business operation, but with one glance it is easy to tell how much more it really is. This farm is a home. It supports a family and a way of life. The Amish way of life could be considered simple, but it is anything but that. Each decision must be carefully weighed in terms of economic gain, how it will impact the family, and how it will affect the community. This generator while not complying with most of the outside world’s view of the Amish allows Kline’s family to continue to live the way they want. Without the generator, the farm would not be profitable. The conscious decision to use power allows the Kline family to not give up their entire lifestyle. As I fiddle with the car keys in my pocket I realize this is not a conscious decision I have ever made. I’ve never stopped and thought about my own dependency on the grid. It is a dependency so intertwined with my own life that I forget it is there. As David Kline talks about his life I wonder how different my life would be if I was more conscious of my use of electricity.
I have always viewed going out into nature as a way to escape. As an only child, I am not quite sure what I have always been trying to escape from, but into the woods, I continued to go. My first solo “hike” I remember distinctly. I was in second grade and decided to venture out into the woods behind my house. I walked back into the woods until I found a spot that just seemed to be calling to me. I sat down and looked up and the giant trees above me. Little did I know in that moment, looking at the maple and oak trees overhead, that one day I would get to stand among the magnificent redwood sequoias. In that moment, second grade me had no idea that this first solo “hike” would start a lifelong passion.
I did not have to read very far into “Desert Solitaire” to feel a connection to it. As Abbey describes being alone in Arches National Park I feel as if he is describing my dreams. His ability to unplug and just sit among nature inspires me. On page fourteen Abbey states, “ I wait. Now raw night flows back, the mighty stillness embraces and includes me; I can see the stars again and the world of starlight. I am twenty miles or more from the nearest fellow human, but instead of loneliness, I feel loveliness. Loveliness and a quiet exultation.” This not only resonates with me because of how I feel about spending time in nature alone but also because of the nature Abbey describes. I have seen the stars he talks of. I have seen these stars in Moab Utah with my own eyes and I understand. I understand how Abbey could feel loveliness. Just thinking about the blanket of stars that encompassed me years ago as I stood in the red dirt soil of Moab I feel a sudden sense of happiness and relaxation.
I also remember how stressful it was to look at the stars at Bryce Canyon and be constantly interrupted by the lights of Las Vegas. This memory makes me grateful for the blunt anger Abbey expresses in his writing. His ability to call things as he sees them makes “Desert Solitaire” interesting from start to finish. Abbey could have just written a book about the beauty of the west and stopped there, but he did not. He called out the evils of men, even those most of us would tell Abbey to shut up about. It is hard to read Abbey’s work without wanting to discuss or debate with him. When he discusses industrial tourism I find myself so conflicted. I understand his distaste for how tourist-oriented the National Parks have become, but I also want to argue that he cannot see the larger picture. The tourism industry keeps the National Parks protected. As prices to enter the park greatly increase this coming year, to pay for infrastructure work, I wonder what Abbey would think. I am also stuck wondering if it had not been for this industrial tourism would I even know what the stars Abbey describes look like?
As we walk down the hill towards Brown’s Bog my eyes scan the landscape. I am looking at the trees rising above me, the flowers off in the distance, and the grass at my feet. A glace to the left and a beautiful wooded area is visible. A glace to the right there is a farm field, just as beautiful in its own right. Standing in the open looking at the world around me for a moment I feel alone and at peace. As we step onto the wooden boardwalk and walk into the woods I begin to feel something different. I walk forward in line with the person in front of me. My pace is set by the leader and matched by everyone else in the line both in front of and behind me. The sounds of the woods are muffled under the constant march of feet on the boardwalk. I feel trapped. I can’t move ahead or fall behind for I am in the middle of the line. When we reach the bog my view is muddled by all of the people around me. I don’t know what to look at or what to listen to. The serenity of nature is lost, buried under the voices of people. It leads me to wonder how is nature best enjoyed? Can more be taken away from a solo journey, than a small group; a small group more than a large one? I would consider myself to be a solo hiker. The only company I am used to is that of my dog or occasionally one other person. The nature of Brown’s Bog was lost for me somewhere in the footsteps and voices.
Upon arriving at Johnson’s Woods the past and present become apparent in one glance. The woods, which is made up of trees older than the nation, can be seen from the parking lot. From that same position, one can see miles of corn. These wooded areas are Ohio’s past. They allow us to see what Ohio looked like before great settlements arose. The corn fields show us where Ohio is now. There is no indication to how the landscape changed so much throughout time expect our own presence. The livelihood of many Ohioans rests on those corn fields, an economic venture the trees could no longer offer. Even after entering the woods the surrounding farm fields could not be escaped. The smell of fertilizer and manure engulfed the woods. Johnson’s Woods was preserved to protect both history and nature. However, nature even preserved is not safe from the unnatural world around it. At Johnson’s Woods, I began to understand the idea that there may not be any truly natural place left on Earth. It was not the boardwalk or signs that made me feel like I was in a less than natural space. It was an inability to escape the outside modern world surrounding me.