Every time I drive across Galena Summit and read the historic marker telling me that Alexander Ross "discovered" the Stanley Basin in 1824, I want to add "...and he was following directions every step of the way." There was, no doubt, an ancient foot trail made by the people who dug Camas bulbs on Camas Prairie each summer for a thousand years, snaking through the primeval forest beneath the Boulder Mountains. These ancestors bowed to no legislation or written words of any kind and drew no hard distinctions between themselves and what they encountered in the Sawtooth Mountains. The sound of a passing raven usually brings alive the great silence of the woods for me. In that silence are the voices of an old unwritten conversation, telling me that the stones in the creek somehow gave rise to the bones in our bodies, that our blood flows as effortlessly as the water in the creek. Look how the shape of trees, articulating into finer and finer points in the wind, are reflected by our lungs, upside-down trees, breathing this wind beside our hearts. The wonder of life is not in "how" it is, but "that" it is. How can we ever forget that we are part and parcel of creation, that "the earth doesn't belong to us, but that we belong to the earth," in the words of Chief Seattle. Even as scientists discover the far reaches of the universe, we are returned again and again, if we are lucky, to the mystery of our own existence.
If I spend enough time among the shapes of nature, the urges of society give way to a gradualness that allows me to forget whoever it was I was trying to be in town. Priorities can be re-established. I am grateful to live in a place where I can discover again and again my true self, which existed before art and metaphor. There is a security in the simplicity of knowing I am created by mysterious forces well beyond my understanding, yet an integral, conscious part of the story.
"Sometimes I go about pitying myself,
While all the while I am carried by
great wings across the sky."
— Ojibway prayer
It's a real eye-full from the top of Galena Summit. Yet, no more so than the little streams in the woods. Sure, there are politics, and confusion and always the need for more. The government is selling "public" land to itself so someone can make more money and outspend the Chinese. But when I look out at the miracle of creation and the resilience of nature, I find it rather silly to think that anyone actually "owns" any of it.