Refining our outlook on nature.
The greatest minds are capable of the greatest vices as well as of the greatest virtues. —René Descartes
It was a lesson learned early. “If you’re gonna do something, you should do it right.” I can hear my father’s words lecturing my youthful wayward self as if it were yesterday. He usually said it when I’d left smudge marks on the windshield or failed to finish a landscaping project to its full potential. He used the expression to light a fire under me, to get my butt in gear. But he did so in a way that incited some critical thinking.
Eventually I learned to do a good job with my chores, but through adolescence and growing into adulthood I realized that the adage applies to just about anywhere one cares to look.
It applied in college when I questioned the value of an education, it’s helped navigate labyrinths of difficult relationships, and it’s influenced the way I travel. The expression alone hasn’t caused any epiphanies, but it’s shed light on what questions I ought to be asking—perhaps the questions all of us should be asking.
Bozeman is blessed with a backyard paradise. As both playground and sanctuary, it’s fantastic and there’s no reason to complain. But might I ask that we all consider our impact? The wildlife, water, and open space are shared by everyone, and they are by no means infinite or immune to the disastrous human footprint. There’s a balance between recreation and stewardship. We should all strive to toe the line.
That said, it’s summertime, and there are opportunities aplenty for both. Run the rivers, pedal the trails, climb the routes, but also think about how and why those activities are available. Remember that we should never take them for granted, and if you care about them, consider action beyond the activity itself.
Nature is a temple in which to both disconnect and reconnect—do both. Detach from the toxicity of ego and reunite with a more primal, less-concerned self. Not everything needs to be shared on social media or otherwise. There’s value in a kept secret, even if it’s only with yourself—especially if it’s only with yourself.
Run wild and suck wind. Let sweat cake your forehead and grease comb your hair. Wash it off with a swim in an alpine lake. Work your muscles, scrape your knees, get dirt under your fingernails, and build calluses that build character. Push it, challenge yourself and let long daylight play to your advantage. Be silly, laugh loud and from the belly, cherish the moments spent with close ones, but seek the comfort of quiet solitude. Trust the inherent value of wildness.
The dog days are back and with them come a wilderness of outdoor offerings. Revel in their splendor, drink from their flowing river, and fill your glass to the brim—but do so for the right reasons.