By Bill Barker

Corvallis Gazette-Times

Outdoors column: Start creating a past worth remembering,0618

Outdoors column: Start creating a past worth remembering

By BILL BARKER, For the Corvallis Gazette-Times

I’m one of a dwindling group, those growing up on a ranch for enough of our lives to know what it means to not just observe nature but to interact with it.

My parents taught me to work with land and animals as a part of the environment, not just objects - including creatures of the wild. In the process, I learned nature is not always beauty and gentleness, it can also be perceived as ugly and violent.

This is something many, who claim to be lovers of nature, don’t like to see - or admit. Nature can inspire amazingly powerful emotions but it is not driven by emotion. What we perceive as beauty, violence or ugliness are merely parts of its processes.

I’m also a baby boomer who grew up during the Cold War. One of many who constantly worried some idiot would push the nuclear “button.” Then came the tensions of Civil Rights conflicts, Vietnam and other stresses which sociologists and psychologists could - with some accuracy - point to as reasons for my generation’s lifestyles.

Perhaps it was continual stress and the “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” attitude that led toward ignoring what we were doing to our natural environment. Once the world, briefly, seemed to stabilize, some blinders began coming off and environmental problems came into focus.

This was good, but the environment often became a political toy. Many of us still remain in a pattern - “live only for the moment, don’t worry about the future” - we grew into. Also, picking correct environmental courses is made more difficult because only a tiny percentage of our population has any personal experience with interacting - on a daily basis - in the natural world.

That’s why I keep urging folks to go out and participate in the outdoors. Sometimes I do it by telling stories to potentially pique submerged urges into rising, trout-like, toward the surface and burst through smoggy barriers into cleaner air and brighter stars. Sometimes I venture into the territory of ideas not always popular with everyone, but that’s part of life.

Where was I? What was my point?

Oh, Yeah, me, us, the “lost” generation.

Many of us, whose ancestors came with the Pilgrims, have lost our roots - including our heritage of living within nature. We are mostly urban. Families have fragmented - seeking jobs - toward areas of population density where they eat, drink and sleep - almost totally insulated from nature.

We’ve become more civilized but less knowledgeable. We lose track of beginnings and processes because we only have to go to a store to get “things” we need. Very few people stop to think about where their purchases come from and how they get there.

So get out and participate in nature. Immerse yourself in it. Study the processes involved in getting those “things” to you.

Then go farther out. Perhaps taking your children to the desert where you can all experience the awe its vastness can inspire in almost anyone when reveling in sensory input - a personal moment in touch with nature. Times for both adults and children to immerse themselves in wind-whine, sage-rattle and juniper smell.

Maybe being so high on a mountain that everything below looks slightly curved. More stars, lighting truly black nights, than seem possible - wondering how there could be an end to the universe. Just maybe it will make an over-urbanized kid want to learn more about nature and - sometime - initiate viable solutions to questionable environmental practices.

Then he/she would truly have a past worth remembering.

Bill Barker writes about the outdoors for the Corvallis Gazette-Times. he can be reached at