I went hiking this morning. Dooley chose to stay behind to keep an eye on the cabin. Somehow I suspected he was likely turning ideas over in his head to get the two strips of fried bacon I left on the kitchen counter. Dooley, as you might remember, is short. He is skilled at chasing chipmonks under logs and into narrow passages, but, without a a rocket pack there was no way he would ever get to that bacon
I was walking trails that were originally traveled by early inhabitants of these mountains, shortcuts between ridges and hollows used to visit neighbors and to travel to town, a trip that takes me about 20 minutes by truck. For them, it must have been a full day’s trek. As usual I was enjoying the smells, sights, sounds and peace of Nature. I’ve been in the woods for almost a month now and it has been a very comfortable transition from the contrived “other” world I left behind. Stopping under a walnut tree for a break I lit up a Swisher Sweet Outlaw Double Barrel Rum cigar and, unfortunately, began to think. Unlike the “other” world, everything in Nature exists for a reason and exists because something existed successfully before it. It is a system of shared wealth and sacrifice. What survives in Nature does so because it works. Every creature, plant, and rock has a role to play. I couldn’t, however, for the life of me, figure out what my role as a human being was. I was feeling uncomfortable and profoundly disappointed in myself. What, in my day-to-day life, did I contribute to sustaining these wonderful woods? Was I just a parasite on the top of the food chain, taking and never giving back? Somewhere in the past a human animal was born with one too many brain cells and decided his “superior” mind was exempt from the Laws of Nature. This never occurred to me in the “other” world. From under the walnut tree it was clear. Man’s artificial ecosystem has no checks and balances. Mistakes aren’t dealt with by extinction but with clever fixes. Except for the occasional bear mauling, plague, third world starvation, and with our self imposed sanctity of human life rule we have no balancing natural population control. We require more and more of the Earth’s resources each day to sustain us, far more than we should be entitled to. With no evolutionary selection process to weed out the successful from the harmful, Man’s unproven changes have had an instant and jarring impact on this earth in the short time we have existed as thinking animals. Sadly, I am ancestor to that first mutant human and with all those extra cells I was unable to think myself out of the guilt I was feeling. The American Indians had it right. To them, if I remember correctly, all things in nature were treated with the same respect they had for themselves, no more, no less. Before eating animals killed for food they would thank the animal for giving up its life so they might eat. The early American Indian must have must have had just the right number of brain cells. Maybe that was the answer. Respect. It was all I had to give back. When my cigar was finished I continued on the trail a short distance and then, feeling a little better about myself, headed back. When I got to my secret cabin the bacon was gone and Dooley was sleeping upside down wedged between a table and chair a short distance from the counter. Out of respect I let him sleep.