|Paper||Canyon Country Zephyr|
|Rights||In Copyright (InC)|
|Rights Holder||Tonya Auden Stiles, Moab, Utah|
|Publisher||Digitized by J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah|
|Paper||Canyon Country Zephyr|
TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT... By Colonel Jim Stiles Millennium Crossroads... at least some How I love the West. After almost a quarter century here, these red rocks, these vast and endless skies continue to grab me by the heart and soul and embrace me in ways that defy words. I have rarely even tried to convey those emotions and sensations. First, they are personal and dear to me. And, more importantly, they can really only be experienced, not described. I never have been much of a "nature writer" and have always felt it was each person’s responsibility or choice to interpret his own feelings about this beautiful country, not mine. Yet, I remain puzzled at times. How can the very same vista, the same sculptured rock, the same soft light of an autumn day create so many different feelings at once? So many times I’ve watched the fading rays of sun behind Elk Ridge or Alkali Flat or Dark Angel or Bromide Basin and felt exhilarated, and soothed, and saddened. Sometimes all at once. I find myself in a state of blissful melancholia more often than not. Why? While some of you look to the Millennium with great concern and anxiety, and others of you watch with bemused detachment, I suppose I find myself somewhere in the middle. I am hardly expecting the End of the World, and it is indeed true that Time, or at least the measurement of it, is a purely human invention. Because of some arbitrary mathematical decision made two millennia ago, we face this Numerical Event. Yet, I cannot completely ignore it either, simply because it is a prominent point in Time from which to look backward and forward...to remember the good and the bad. And to look ahead and...well...to hope for Hope. : If youaré’a regular reader;‘you must know that I worry about the West. About my West if I can be allowed to show my selfish side for a moment. This month I will have spent half my life here and I’ve become sort of attached to the place. I have seen so many changes I can scarcely remember at times the way it used to be. And so it is very much that worry, that fear, that scrambles my emotions when | watch the sunset. If all were lost I'd have nothing to worry about at all. But not all is lost. I freely admit that I consider the positive too infrequently. And I am here to concede that there is still much to be enjoyed, much to be protected, and so much, ultimately, that can still be lost. My favorite vistas, your quiet and remote and secret hideaways are the treasures that I hope will survive to the next millennium, and beyond it. But I cannot help but worry, and unless you are completely delusional, so should you. In my cranky middle-age, I have not really "mellowed" very much. If anything, I have grown more intolerant of compromise and equivocation and timidity than I was when I was twenty. Acquiescence and conciliation have not served the Common Man With breathtaking rapidity, we are destroying all that was lovely to look at and turning America into a prison house of the spirit. The affluent society, with relentless single-minded energy, is turning us into the most affluent slum on earth. Eric Severeid or the Land very well in this century. If the world were moving at a leisurely pace, and if there were time to seek compromise without so much sacrifice, then perhaps I could see the advantage. But our culture is plunging into the future at a speed we can not even comprehend. The change is so rapid we have become numbed by it. We are so overwhelmed that we can barely muster a shrug at the most gruesome upheavals to our lives. I came across a few words by Ed Abbey the other day. Here is what he had to say about compromise: of my concerns and passions. As I have said before...the search for kindred spirits. The letters I receive and the little notes scribbled on the bottom of subscription cards mean more to me than any of you can even imagine. And it’s not just the kind words; it is knowing that you guys are out there. But it seems to me that, in many ways, our species has lost confidence in itself...has lost its nerve. How many times have we stood witness to an event or incident that we knew was wrong, and said nothing? Did nothing? Most of us know the difference between right and wrong. Deep down, we know. And yet, we remain silent. Clearly there are some who just don’t get it. Of course there are our ultra-conservative friends who believe that the earth was put here to be ransacked for the “benefit of Man,’ regardless of the destruction inflicted. But I particularly cringe when I encounter people who seem to have found their progressive soul, their cause if you will. But when examined closely, it is clear that they lack the courage to match their alleged convictions. I call it "persona without passion." Their convictions are a mile wide and an inch deep. I have more respect for the conservatives; at least they’re honest. But there are also some real heros out there. Sometimes I think there are way too few. But one of mine set me straight recently. David Brower, the former Executive Director of the Sierra Club, has probably done more to wake up the American people to the threats that face our land than anyone in this century. His campaign to stop the Bureau of Reclamation from building dams in the Grand Canyon rallied millions of citizens to get involved. Ironically, he drew the ire of fellow Sierra Club board members and was fired for his efforts (He failed to follow protocol). Today, while the Sierra Club proudly proclaims its efforts to save the Grand Canyon as one of its greatest accomplishments, Brower is, incredibly, reviled by many of the club’s members. Still, Brower persists and fights on. Last month,I received a letter from Dave, responding to a comment from me that there were too few heroes... Dear Jim, Your reference to your heroes got me thinking. You should know that I have lots of heroes. know by name. You can, too. Most of my heroes I don't Like the activists involved in the pseudo-cracking of Glen Canyon dam back around 1983. Or those of you who are trying to start a Sierra Club group in Moab. There are so many who make commitments and sacrifices, we don't always notice who they are. But what they do is heroic, and I am humbled by my inability to tell them I’m aware. At least I can tell you. Maybe you can help me tell some of them. Print this if it feels right. Dave Brower got me to thinking. Who are my heroes? And suddenly I realized I had more than I thought possible. Of course, there’s my dear friend Ken Sleight who, along with Abbey, has been a role model and an inspiration to me for 20 years. To me Ken has always been a true visionary and a gentle fighter. The man is unflappable. But who else? There are many: Scott Groene of SUWA, who could be making the BIG Bucks with some prestigious law firm, (We had grown) tired of the timid, of all the cautious compromising. These compromises always turned out to mean that the conservation side gave up something and never gained anything. The industrial developers gained something, and Nature always lost. The baloney method—keep slicing off little pieces of baloney, little chunks of wilderness, until nothing is left. Until the whole country looks like New Jersey or southern California. The way I see it, wilderness is our original native home. And when government thieves or industrial burglars invade your home, you don’t compromise. You resist. You defend your home whatever way you can. Most of us don’t enjoy watching "pieces of baloney" sliced off a little bit at a time. But we watch because we think we're helpless to stop it. We're not. Believe it or not, I still believe (perhaps in my weaker moments) in the basic decency of the human race. While this job of mine has brought me more than a fair share of heartbreak and heartburn, it has also allowed me to find others of you who share but who instead chooses to work long and frustrating hours fighting for something he truly believes in. And Brant Calkin, one of the original SUWA windmill-tilters and a man of absolute integrity. And Susan Tixier, the Greatest Old Broad for wilderness, for sure. And Philip Hyde, one of America’s most respected photographers, who has given his entire life documenting the beauty of the Land. And Wendell Berry, a writer and a Kentuckian, who lives as simply and eloquently (not elegantly) as he writes. The same can be said for writer John Nichols (Milagro Bean Field War), who gives most of his money away and refuses to be rich, except in spirit. And Katie Lee, who will never give up the cause of Glen Canyon. And Rich Ingebretsen. And Martin Litton. And Sasa Woodruff who proves that idealism and activism are still alive even in people under 30. And Ed Quillen, who shakes things up in Colorado and keeps the politicos honest--or tries to.