As I watch this series about the National Parks, by Ken Burns on PBS, I’m moved to tears again and again. Sometimes in awe of the beauty of God’s creation or in reminiscing about the visits I’ve made to one park or another. But also, by the inspiration brought on by people who have made a difference in protecting and preserving our nations most beautiful vistas and corners.
I have heard the words of John Muir, a Scottish-born American author, naturalist and early advocate of preservation of U.S. wilderness, who fought for the parks he loved with eloquence until his dying breath at the age of 76.
I’ve learned about George Melendez Wright who was barely in his 20’s when he became an advocate for the wildlife in the parks. With a degree in Forestry and Zoology, he set off for a 4-year study that changed the management of wildlife in all the parks. Returning to a philosophy of allowing all creatures to live within the natural order in which they were created, instead of coaxing bears to garbage piles and killing natural predators. Even though his life was cut short by an automobile accident at the age of 31, in less than 10 years he had a profound impact on the way our National Parks are managed to this day.
Then, I’m reminded of this awe-inspiring black and white photography of Ansel Adams, that almost single-handedly invoked the creation of Kings Canyon National Park. His work later introduced the rest of the world to the gorgeous scenery in nearly every national park and beyond.
A true inspiration is Marjory Stoneman Douglas who, at the age of 57 (that’s older than me) wrote a book about the Everglades which generated support for the park in it’s infancy. Marjory continued to speak on behalf of the park well past her 80’s and lived to the ripe old age of 108.
In 1986, (when she was 94!) the National Parks Conservation Assoc. established the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Award “to honor individuals who often must go to great lengths to advocate and fight for the protection of the National Park System.” Now that’s someone with perseverance!
These stories and the parks themselves inspire me. They make me realize that I’m not the only one who thought about becoming a park ranger as a youngster. Or whose heart aches because I realize I can’t always stay as long as I’d like when I visit a National Park. I’m not the only one who tries to think of ways to live there or spend more time there every year or to capture the beauty thru my lens so I can take it home with me to enjoy every day.
But, how on earth can I make a difference? That’s still to be determined…but I’m determined to do what I can, if only to be a National Parks Evangelist in my own corner of God’s creation. I’m so thankful that our nation has decided to set aside and protect these slivers of glory for all of us and our future generations to enjoy…and thank you God for providing them.