Tomorrow night my PBS station with Louisiana Public Broadcasting will be airing the Ken Burns film The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. I have spent a significant amount of time in America’s National Parks. My times in Mesa Verde, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Smoky Mountains, Mammoth Caves and some of the other large natural areas are among my most precious memories and times in my life. Additionaly Jean Lafite and numerous other sites protected by the National Park Service have enriched and been part of my life. We have all got some capacity to appreciate the beauty of nature, all of us have a potential to be moved at the majesty of it all. I have been to Kunyu National Park in China, to numerous state and city parks in the USA and I truly do have some great memories of all these places. However, the National Parks of the United States hold a very special place in my heart and memory. I remember my ex wife and I getting into a tent just before dark at a Mammoth Caves tentsite and then getting up to spend a good part of the day making two cave tours and then diving to Louisville where I spent two days a researching the Roy Striker deposit of files on and copies of documentary film and photography at the Ekstrom Photographic Archives at the University of Louisville. We did other things that trip when the archives were closed but the National Park was the highlight of them all.
I will never forget the sense of awe which I experienced in going to see and walk through the giant sequoias. I will always remember the many conversations I had with rangers and the many lectures that I listened to given by rangers. There have been analogous experiences and overlapping ones like visiting the twenty-one (actually not an exact number) California Missions that started the Great State of California on its path into Western Civilization. But in a life that has brought me also London and Truk Lagoon I have a very high esteem for the US National Park system.
I also remember a bear coming into our camping area when I was a child at a national park and fishing for trout with my father in the clearest natural water I had ever seen. I will never forget the awe I felt when I first saw the Grand Canyon. Those experiences have given me hope about humanity interacting with nature over the long haul. I have been away too long to be sure if some of the other sites that I have visited were National Parks or some other clasification. Petrified Forest and Painted Desert are among those.
I look forward to watching the PBS specials and enjoying Burns view of all this. We must face a future with the courage to build islands and undersea habitats and to colonize space. That must happen for us to be who we are and when we are doing that well then we will also be able to bring the Parks and new parks into their highest glory. I am not joking whne I say that Ilook forward to the day when our national parks are used to seed apecies into artificial environments where no life exists today. I look forward today to see the day when we use waste to build islands and colonize crater and free up more land to act as clean natural corridors connecting parks.
For now I hope that I will get to watch the Burns movie and let it move and educate me a little bit. Maybe it will be a bit of a tie to the future and the past. That would be both my personal past and future and larger collective and communal pasts and futures.