Tuesday, February 21, 2017

--- Danger, Will Robinson ---


I remember a photograph I saw when I was a kid. It showed parents with their child on the back of a bear in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Fortunately, no one was mauled. On the other hand is the case of Timothy Treadwell, aka Grizzly Man,  who spent years with the bears of Alaska. A documentary by Warner Herzog, Grizzly Man, chronicled his last five years. It shows him pawing the bears as though they were pets. According to their body language, they were quite obviously irritated with him. Finally he met a grouch which ate him and his girlfriend.

Let me repeat that. One of his beloved bears, who he had "gained the trust" of, mauled and ate him and his girlfriend. Then people killed the bear.

I can guarantee you that, if you went to Time Square in New York and treated humans the way Timothy Treadwell treated the bears in that film, someone would sooner than  later maul you and, perhaps, kill you. The bear was not to blame. Timothy was rude and rudeness is not long tolerated in nature.

Nature is dangerous and you're part of it. Your home is part of nature so there's no help in barricading yourself inside your house.

Nature is dangerous but it's not necessarily deadly.

I  was once looking for something to write about on my LiveJournal and I came upon an issue of Backpacker magazine that featured Bear Grylls as the guest editor (October 2012). In an interview, Anthony Cerretani asked him, "Has there ever been a  moment when you actually thought, 'This is it. I think I'm going to die.'?" That gave me material. I asked myself the same question and, at first guess the answer was, "Maybe a handful of times." When I started listing the episodes, I filled a page and started on another.

I'm 63 years old and have survived hurricanes, tornadoes, falls off cliffs, flying objects, huge waves, and on and on. I place myself in harms way - it's not a thrill thing. I don't go out of my way to place myself in danger but, as I said in an earlier article, there are too  many things that you can't experience unless you get involved - too many things that are worth some risk. One thing I've learned is that you can enjoy Nature if you respect her.

By "respect", I don't mean any (as the late George Carlin was likely to snipe) hippy dippy concept like "love", "adore", "grock". At base, I mean "understand well enough to get along with."

For instance, no wild animal is "cute". Most are equipped with weapons as parts of their anatomies and you are a stranger that might want to hurt them. Bambi is not your friend. Billy Bison and Maurice Moose will murder you without qualm if you fool with them. Hominids are not a favored meal of most predators but, in a pinch, you'll do. They're "just folks" (they're even "good folks") but they have to live, too. Just don't get in their way.

When you go to unfamiliar surroundings, learn as much as you can about the environment, what kind of diseases you have to guard against, the animals that live there, the climate....before you go.

In my area we have an assortment of animals on the hoof. They're skittish and have sharp hooves. There are bears and mountain lions. They rarely attack hominids but the ones around here seem to be smart enough to stay away - you rarely even see them. There are plenty of coyotes and they have little fear of humans, but they usually only attack people who think they're toys like their inbred poodles and spaniels. Don't try to feed the animals. They're rough with each other and they don't realize that you can't take it like their pack mates.

In the southeast, the environment changes slowly. Weather usually gives plenty of warning before it turns nasty. Tornadoes that start out in Texas take a while to get to Alabama. Flash floods are rarely that flashy. Preceding weather and a well known predisposition to flood is all you need to know about to get out of the way

Colorado has few buffers. When it decides to storm, there's little warning. When it does storm, it can go from toasty to bone chilling in the matter of an hour. Flash floods give no warning. If you're in Alabama and you trip and fall, you're probably falling on something you can eat. In Colorado, just about every edible plant has something that looks very similar that will, at least, make you very ill. We have bubonic plague out here. Respect Colorado!

If you want to lounge and schmooze, stay in the resort towns. If you want beauty, excitement, and positive life changing adventure, hit the trails.

But be sure, all that talk in our cultural heritage about inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness - those don't exist in nature. Nature isn't there for your convenience. Mankind might think that he has conquered nature (or can conquer nature) but, unless one of the more positive religions is right, long after humanity has died out, this planet will still be flying nonchalantly around the sun, feeling no grief at all at the loss of a microscopic culture that once flourished on her skin and was called "humanity".

Respect Nature and she will respect you. Disrespect Nature and she will eat you.

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