Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Urban Wilderness goes to Rockport, Massachusetts

I’ve been out of town again and therefore not keeping up on my blog. (Being away from the computer for a week is very relaxing. I recommend it for reducing stress in your life. It works for me at least.) But I’m back.

I spent the week on the beach in Massachusetts. (Yeah, nice.) You might think that that is far enough away from an urban wilderness, but you’d be wrong! Although the town of Rockport, where I stayed, is not urban, the issues of balancing development with conservation and being able to experience the natural environment without disturbance are hard to escape wherever one travels. Urban wilderness refers not only to the wonderful opportunities provided by urban parks, but to the far less wonderful propensity for people to bring urban problems into the wilderness. Exhibit A: Gatlinburg, Tennessee, gateway to Great Smoky Mountain National Park. (I didn’t take this shot.)

Exhibit B is my own experience last week. I did take the two shots below. The first is sunrise from Long Beach in Gloucester. (The sunrises were great! I shot several while I was there.) Nothing like the ocean to provide a perspective on the smallness of …well, just about everything else, right?

The trouble is, everyone wants a piece of that view. So, after I took that sunrise shot I turned around 180º and made the next shot. Urban wilderness is about the paradox. It’s hard to find a stretch of coastline in Massachusetts that doesn’t have a house or hotel on it. We love to view the wilderness but all too often instead of backpacking into it, we plop ourselves down in front of it. If possible, we try to own it. (I’m reminded of a song by Neil Young: “Love is a rose but you better not pick it. It only grows when it's on the vine. A handful of thorns and you'll know you've missed it. You lose your love when you say the word ‘mine’.”)

So, I’m just catching up on local news. Did you see the story about the carp found in Lake Calumet, near Chicago? Read it here. Another example of the urban wilderness. Just as you can’t expect nature to cooperate with human expectations or desires (flooding in Pakistan is the latest disaster), you can’t expect humans to keep from meddling with nature. Did someone take the carp out of the Illinois River, where it never belonged, and put it in Lake Calumet, where it doesn’t belong? Probably. What did we expect?

The locks on the river should have been closed long ago. The ill-conceived connection between the Great Lakes Basin and the Mississippi watershed finally must be closed permanently. Chicago’s been given a pass far too long.

To read more about my excursion to Rockport, and see more photos, check out my other blog post: Arts Without Borders.

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