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Thank You , Good Friends!

Good friends of the High Uintas Preservation Council, we are profoundly grateful for your support, your friendship, the hope you offer and the beauty of your wild voice! May this winter season smooth the edges of a ragged election-November!

Elections will always be elections and always filled with trouble and contradictions and even more so nowadays when every election is billed as a battle for the soul, a battle for the country's soul, of right and good. Those who claim the mantle of victor claim they are good and right, by virtue of winning, and those who are dealt the veil of victims also claim right and good. On and on we go, tumbling over and over, maybe cementing our future for decades yet to come. Another troubling thought.

Still, today and likely for months to come, we have heard and will hear the cry of red and blue states, a mandate of victory, a loss of only a tiny percentage, the need to re-think, stay the course, mourn, stand an fight, get over it, let it sink in and sting.

Obviously it matters what happened in this election. Clearly meaningful environmental policies are being shoved aside, often with seeming glee and, even more scary, often rationalized and justified by many who know better. Of course, I speak of the Forest Service in this instance because that is with whom we most often deal. It adds to the ever-more-troubling and frustrating days before us.

I rattled on and on for years, often being accused of being out of step and tune, that unless we changed the language of politics, where we are today is where we would end up. My voice was feeble and weak but many voices were deep and profound and were as easily, with great tragedy, dismissed. And here we have arrived -- it is a politics of hate and power and the voices and metaphors are so jumbled that it is often indecipherable always waiting for the next election to add just the last piece to finally and vigorously trounce whomever the victim might be. Maybe it will happen and with it the end of this little experiment in this kind of democracy. Maybe it won't happen, but the battle will always be to seek just one more vote to end another's voice... with the same result.

I'm not sure of any advice. For one, I'm mourning not just the election but the hopeless, hapless race we are running. I'm not even sure what it means to stand and fight anymore, but that seems likely what we will do because it still seems right. Maybe the race we are running is still hopeful...

I hope what we are doing when we say stand and fight is deep and personal. Of course, we are fighting for policies that favor wildness and ecological integrity, but it must be personal and subjective, if you will, to get this path righted.

This all came home again on the eve of Halloween. In a hard cold rainfall, just a foot off the ground on the bottom branch of one of our young cottonwood trees, we found, because of the mobbing of magpies and chickadees, our western screech owl hugging the bole of the tree, eyes only partially open.

We hear him every night as he "roosts" in the ancient and broken Box Elder maple in the backyard. We watched for a few minutes only a foot from him, worried, and came in to get dry. After a little research, we were assured he was okay, just a bit troubled in digesting something a bit larger than intended. A couple of hours later, in still pouring rain, we checked again. He was gone!

But a quick search found him about six feet up in the parent cottonwood, still hugging the bole of the tree. A few hours later, he was 15 feet up. At sunset, his eyes opened, head was bobbing, and he perched at binocular range of 20 feet in the adjacent Lombard poplar. Grace was with us all this day as his 18" wings lifted him, as nearly an apparition, out of the tree and into the night sky.

Porcupine by Clint McKnightWe saw him only for moments throughout the day. Never saw him move until he finally took flight. We haven't seen him since, but hear him. His life is a mystery. We know him not by what we saw in a few moments, but by what we didn't see what he kept from us. And this was in the backyard!

The pine marten, great gray owl, moose, goshawk all live life every hour, day in and out, a loop of continuous time, all independent of our recognition or stare. How they deal with bitter cold, blinding snow, long summer days is simply beyond our knowing.

Many years ago on the last June night of a 10 day solo backpack in Yellowstone National Park, I slept under the stars instead of the nylon of my tent. It was the first night/day that it didn't rain/sleet/snow. In the twilight of sleep and wakefulness as morning broke, I remember thinking how nice it was to be sleeping next to the warmth of my old dog... except, now fully awake and terrified that I was going to be swallowed in one gulp, my dog wasn't with me. I rose in one motion in my sleeping bag, yelling and literally hopping backward as fast as possible, only to see my sleeping partner wasn't a hungry grizz but a porcupine, now also startled and tail up. We quickly made peace and off he went. I laughed at myself and the ruckus I made for an hour over oatmeal and coffee. In his nocturnal wanderings he had found a warm spot and snoozed.

As amazing as the event, what struck me then and now is how fast the encounter occurred and how quickly he disappeared to live out a life that I experienced for but a few minutes. It has helped define me, but probably not him. But I will never know.

That seems to be the reason we will stand and fight, or jump, or hop, or write letters, make telephone calls, pray, chant and try to live meaningful, graceful lives.

Dick Carter

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