“To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world.” John Muir
In each of us lies an ancient longing. Perhaps it is a result of an evolutionary process; some explicable scientific idea that comforts us with our presumed knowledge. Perhaps it’s origin is beyond human comprehension, veiled in the mists of the supernatural. Regardless of origin it exists. Thinly disguised and often overlooked, it lives in the edges of our consciousness.
You have heard it. On achingly clear nights when the cold of the north knifes into any unprotected skin, causing an involuntarily shiver. On the wind comes the sound of canine howling, caroming off the canyon walls. You shiver again but not from the cold. It was there.
You have seen it. Even in your hurried suburban commute, as you follow the herd along game trails of asphalt. You pass a space that has so far escaped the bulldozer’s blade, and out of the corner of your eye a tawny shape moves…just barely. In that instant, between beats of your heart – the shadow of the hunter overtakes you. Your head pivots ’round and eyes narrow to keen focus, seeking game. It was there.
You have felt it. In the spaces beyond discernible thought and escaping the grasp of your senses, it waits; this primal core. Your soul longs to throw off the trappings and noise of modern society to seek refuge and restoration in the garden of all things. To seek beauty created by the hand of God, unmarred by the hand of man. To wander, not knowing your location, but never feeling lost. To drink deeply from the wellspring of Eden. Yes, it was there.
But alas, where we were once surrounded by Eden, now we surround her like a trapped beast. Where fences once kept us safe from the wilderness, now they keep the wilderness safe from us.
Now comes the time when the fences must grow taller, their gaps closed. For to not protect the gift of unconquered wilderness means forfeit of our ancient wildness. Our absolute need to at least know that there still remain pieces of Eden where our souls can be salved, even though we may never walk her cathedral forests.
Such a place is the Tongass National Forest; one of our nation’s best remaining expanses of wildness. A place where wild salmon not only live, but thrive. Protections exist today, yes. But gaps could allow the siege on Eden to continue.
IF wildness dies,what then will we do when the ancient longings come, and all we have are hauntings of what once was?
“Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries … God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools — only Uncle Sam can do that.” John Muir