“….to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” – Mission of National Park Service as ordained by the Organic Act of 1916
I recently traveled the areas of southern Utah and northern Arizona with my father. We visited five national parks (Zion, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands, and the Grand Canyon) and three national monuments (Cedar Breaks, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Pipe Spring). We experienced sandy deserts, red sandstone cliffs, and high elevation forests, and we absorbed sights wondrous to behold! In those 2,000+ miles we encountered people from all parts of the United States and the world. We heard French, German, Japanese, Korean, British English, and American English (including Texan, Illinois-ian, and New Yorkan). One valuable lesson I learned: America’s natural gems are treasured throughout the world.
We Americans have environmental treasures throughout our country, from the high-plains deserts of Wyoming and Montana to the lush tropics of Florida and Hawaii. We are so incredibly fortunate that visionaries of the late 1800s and early 1900s ensured places such as Yellowstone (set aside in 1872), Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon were set aside for those of us today and those who come after us can experience these unique, majestic areas for ourselves. Watching The Roosevelts on Public Television, I’ve been reminded that Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, saw the value in these lands; so did Bill Clinton when he expanded or established more than 20 national monuments, setting aside Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah and the Missouri River Breaks in Montana, among others, as national treasures worthy of protection – both presidents received great flack for their stewardship strides, protecting places for future generations to enjoy. Had it not been for these men, and many other people, my dad and I would not have been able to experience these amazing vistas nor now have this great memory to cherish. Additionally, communities’ as well as America’s economy would not be primed with cash from international visitors who take bus tours, stay in hotels, rent cars, dine out, and buy souvenirs … and who experience something their country doesn’t have: natural national treasures.
I was very blessed not only by encounters with other park/monument visitors, but by the incredible scenery and the memory-making time with my father. Sharing this trip with my dad is something I will never forget. Having such majestic places to enjoy with him, and with my parents together as a youngster, is a majestic memory that will never be erased.
I often wonder why so many Americans do not value these national treasures; I’ve heard several say, “if you’ve seen one tree you’ve seen them all,” or “What good is a pile of rocks?” Ask that question of the numerous visitors from Europe and Asia who have no such place to enjoy, who travel thousands of miles to experience the beauty and majesty of vistas, canyons, rocks, and forests. Ask that question of the multitude of creatures that call those landscapes home: a treasure-trove of birds, mammals, reptiles, and plants that exist in the varied environments. Sitting on the porch of a rented cabin near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon one morning, I counted no less than seven bird species, and throughout our trip we saw a plethora of wildlife, including mule deer, elk, rabbits, squirrels, lizards, and other critters – neither the desert nor the forest is devoid of life.
The third lesson I learned is that I’m given opportunity; I only need to be vigilant. My parents taught me at a young age to conserve, to respect nature and to honor the Creator. My faith is re-enforced when I experience nature: a glowing scarlet sunset, the myriad of colors in a forest meadow or a shimmering rainbow, the individuality and creativity of each species of plant and animal. As a writer and an appreciator of nature (thanks in large part to my wonderful parents!), I see opportunity in traveling to these special places. There are magazine articles and blog posts (like this one) to write, there are potential business endeavors to create (offering to write brochure and other marketing copy for tourism-based businesses), and there are books to sell (I met several dog-oriented people during the trip and also made contact with a bookstore at which I may be able to sell my books – it’s located in Kanab, Utah and named for an animal and when I mentioned I write dog stories and am a supporter of Best Friends Animal Society & Sanctuary, the store’s owner indicated interest in carrying my books). Passing out business cards, not being afraid to tell others I’m a writer with a passion for pets and the environment, and sharing my experiences with readers weaves the tapestry of my life – and knitting those treasures, blessings and opportunities together creates a firmer foundation and solidifies the calling upon my heart.
What experiences have added to the woven fabric of your life? What has influenced your writer’s calling (or whatever other passions are instilled within you?)
P.S. The National Park Service celebrates 100 years as an agency in 1916, and National Public Lands Day is this Saturday, September 27th – I encourage each of us to go out and enjoy the bountiful treasures that are our national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife refuges. Volunteer, visit, write, wonder, educate, enjoy – you too may find a treasure-trove of blessing and opportunity!
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer, author and speaker. She’ll be speaking about “Dogs with Jobs” at the Natrona County Library in Casper, WY at 2 pm on Sat., September 27th. She is the author of five inspirational dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the latest dog book The Dog Did What?, released in August 2014. She also writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, and Our Town Casper magazines, as well as for the Casper Journal and River Press newspapers, and she’s had articles published in Creation Illustrated magazine. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. Learn more at www.gaylemirwin.com.