“A village was suffering through a long drought, so it was decided that all the villagers would come together on a certain day in one spot and pray for rain. On the appointed day, everyone showed up. But only one small boy brought an umbrella.”
As a child in Jamaica I listened in rapt attention to my Sunday school teacher’s description of the Garden of Eden, a place of perfect beauty and harmony where God walked and talked with man. I believed such a place existed, because the village where I lived wasn’t too far distant. Green hills punctuated with fruit-laden trees and flowers, a river running through it, a village full of cousins and friends to play with, and adults that kept us in check – it had all the elements.
Growing up I came to understand that many adults fervently believe in the Garden of Eden – but only as an other-worldly place to which one can vaguely aspire. Having seen the vast splendor of the American outdoors in our national parks and forests where the deer and the antelope still play, where the land remains as bright, pristine and untouched as the first day of creation, I have no difficulty accepting Earth as synonymous with the Biblical garden, and I try to treat her with appropriate respect every day.
Maybe it’s because I’ve r looked over the 11-mile expanse of the Grand Canyon from the North Rim to the South, a scene so rich in beauty that my husband Frank opined, “If colors were music, the Grand Canyon would outshine Handel’s Messiah.”
Or because our friend Sharon said, “How God must love us to create something like this for us to see,” as we drove into the Grand Teton National Park from Yellowstone and she gaped at the bulk of snow clad mountains jutting into the clouds.
Or because we spent hours sitting on our friend Sheena’s verandah in Jamaica last week watching a myriad native hummingbirds feeding on the bright flowers adorning her mango tree. “Exposure is the key to learning,” she remarked as we pointed out the different birds by size and color that she’d never noted before.
At 1,901 square miles the Grand Canyon National Park is big enough to hold New York City four times over. Yellowstone, at 3,472 square miles, can hold the Grand Canyon with room left over for Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston and Houston, all fit together. When you see beauty on this scale, it’s not hard to extrapolate the Garden of Eden, and you take it with you wherever you go.
But we are now at a moment when the relationship between our sacred, protected lands and the future is being breached, and it’s happening on our watch. The administration calls for acreage to be removed from the National Park System, has cut the budget, proposes to raise entrance fees to our most iconic parks and to open our immaculate lands in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling.
If we cannot protect the most treasured parts of our country, what can we protect? The fact that our parks have been described as the Soul of America and as America’s Best Idea, gives us some idea of the esteem in which they have heretofore being held. Besides containing the history of our continent from the beginning of time, they are also among the few remaining places where the processes of life go on fairly unaltered, making them a laboratory for scientists to discover more and advise us about the past and future.
Factually, this administration will eventually end. The question is, will we have allowed irreversible damage to these remnants of the Garden that we were bequeathed by our ancestors to hold in trust for our descendants?
“We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune,” the great conservationist President Theodore Roosevelt warned near the turn of the 20th Century.
Our remnants of the “Garden” are the tangible rebuttal for those who offer us a lunatic, fact-free world where actions are divorced from their obvious negative consequences. I implore you, let’s not give in to the “snake “ this time.
The day to show our mettle is here. This helpful website brings you up to date on the issues and allows you to send a message with one click to your representatives in Congress expressing your support for upholding protections for our national parks.
For goodness sake, bring your umbrella!