The Wildness of Nature

Too often in our well-designed suburbs we forget the power and wildness of nature. Often bulldozed to the side to make way for a new strip mall or pulled from your yard as a nasty weed, too often we forget the power and wildness of nature. Last week we visited a place where humans keep their safe distance out of respect for the power and wildness of nature.. last week we visited Alaska.

Ignore the cheesy cruise ship and all it’s trappings, least of which was the endless induction of hand sanitizer as a mindless way to control germs. See the ship as the necessary evil to force you to slow your pace down to gaze in wonder of the wildness of Alaska.

We visited countless glaciers. Notable to mention some were receding, as is often reported, but others are advancing as well. In Glacier Bay we stop to view one that is over twenty stories tall and melting away in front of our eyes. Huge pieces break off as we watch in the cold afternoon. The ship cannot get more than 1/4 mile from the face of the glacier as a safety precaution. Two days later we visit a smaller one near Juneau and we row a ten-person canoe just as near and you are struck with both wonder and fear. The waterfall, that off in the distance looks modestly impressive, is hundreds of feet high when you visit where it enters the lake. As you look up at the mountains, who also have within the last 200 years been carved by glaciers, you can easily see the different ages of the forests and greenery that is signature for the wildness of nature. And while I’m no animal nut, my daughter is quick to remind me we saw three whales, nine seals and seven bald eagles.

But what strikes you the most is how beautiful and quiet it is. Juneau, the largest city we visited on the trip, has 30,000 residents. The other towns I’d guess somewhere less than half than that - combined. Here in Alaska it seems man lives in the wilderness. Although we live quite near the country, here in the Plains we live among subdivided acreage. Our straight boulevards and tree lined streets bear little resemblance to the windy mountain roads we traveled to our shore excursions each day in port.

I know humans’ mark on Alaska, and all places wild, is that of exploitation. Not always in a bad sense but also not always in a good sense either. People came and still stay in Alaska for it’s natural resources whether that is salmon or silver.. or the tourists. Thankfully, for the most part it would seem our impact on Alaska has been nominal. This is a good thing for I know it helped a life-long city boy like me, in a small way, stop, slow down and wonder at the power and wildness of nature.