Tread Lightly

Michael Kimmelman writes that “Mountains have not always been a source of reverence and awe.  We take it for granted that since the beginning of time people have climbed them for pleasure and written paeans to their beauty, because we assume that our own responses to them are, like nature, eternal and natural.  But this is not true.  Throughout most of Western history, at least since the ancient Greeks, people felt unmoved and even repelled by mountains.  The Romans found them desolate, hostile places.  John Donne, reflecting the general attitude of his age, called them warts on the planet.  Martin Luther believed them to be part of God’s retribution for man’s fall.” Ha ha ha!!!!  Warts!   I love this:  perception revealed to be just that –merely perception.  Very little truth to hold them up.  Divine punishment in one century and divine gift in the next.

Do you like these perspective-flipping stories?  OK, here’s another one.  Way back near the dawn of time, a poor man with streak of white hair was walking in a field and came across a magnificent chestnut horse, full tacked.  He couldn’t believe his luck.   He announced his new acquisition, fully prepared to give it back to whomever had lost it but no one claimed it. This was going to make his life so much easier. Two weeks later, the horse stopped short and threw him and he broke his leg — at a time when a broken leg could be a death sentence.   Was he lucky to find the horse?

You don’t really know what luck is.  Just look at how every single lottery winner in the history of the world ends up financially ruined, divorced, imprisoned dead, dumb and ugly. And they had perfectly nice lives beforehand.  And were cute.

Nothing is solid.  What hurts today will not hurt tomorrow.

We have a little drianage swale (water channel) on our farm that just a few years ago was pretty small.  Now it is a canyon.  Here’s a very bad picture from which you cannot get much sense of how deep it is, but note the trees that have gone crooked — they have become “displanted” (not a word):


Why is it increasing at just a large rate?  Just a very small change in the conditions upstream create entirely new conditions downstream.  And pretty rapidly. The two large storms last summer contributed to this, but in addition, the chisel plowing that Bram did this summer, increased the drainage.  And now we are probably going to have to do something unless we want further collapse in that area.  Yet even the act of shoring up the banks of the new ravine will have unforeseen consequences.  We have to do it with a lot of forethought.

An academic geologist who lives in Plainfield, George, said (approximately) this to Bram recently, “Some look at those mountains and see something permanent and fixed and I see a river.  Just a tiny shift in the landscape and they’ll morph or disappear completely.”  The mountains are fragile.

The natural (and personal and political) history of humankind has been an unintended consequence.  The End.



One thought on “Tread Lightly

  1. Now THAT’S thinkin’. I really like thinkin’. When you think like this, it’s like seeing clearly now that the rain has gone.But tho I love the Valery quote, it’s very Zen, impossible to achieve, like getting the sound of one hand clapping. Have tried, really, but to no avail. Though some appear to do so, not me. But transitoriness, that I get, totally. Falling mountains, widening swales, next week, who knows?

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