Association of State Wetland Managers - Protecting the Nation's Wetlands.

The Compleat Wetlander: The Past Re-visited

Sometimes during the hot, steamy days of August I remember a long ago summer that  not so much shaped my life as distilled certain bits and pieces rattling around in an adolescent brain and set it on its future course.

 To put it simply—my parents sent me to camp.

Not just any camp but a special experimental Outward Bound Camp for a slightly younger age set, kids just reaching puberty.  Lots of things happened at camp.  The same things that happen on other Outward Bound Courses– caving, climbing, canoeing, the ubiquitous ropes and challenge course, the solo.  And at night around the campfire the counselors would read from On the Loose, by Jerry and Renny Russell.  It was a book of incredible pictures interlaced with quotations about beauty and adventure and the wilderness.  The book seemed to express all the things I knew and longed for but couldn’t put into words.

I was delighted to find it again almost 30 years later on the dusty shelves of a used book store in Sacramento.  I leafed through the pages quickly looking for my favorite quote.  It was there, on page 107, a voice speaking to me from the far end of the 20th century.

But in these plethoric times when there is too much coarse  stuff for everybody and the struggle for life takes the form of competitive advertisement and the effort to fill you neighbor’s eye, there is no urgent demand either for personal courage, sound nerves or stark beauty, we find ourselves by accident.  Always before these times the bulk of people did not overeat themselves because they couldn’t whether they wanted to or not, and all but a very few were kept “fit” by unavoidable exercise and personal danger.  Now, if only he pitch his standard low enough and keep free from pride, almost anyone can achieve a sort of excess.  You can go through contemporary life fudging and evading, indulging and slacking, never really hungry nor frightened nor passionately stirred, your highest moment a mere sentimental orgasm, and your first real contact with primary and elemental necessities the sweat of your deathbed.

       –H.G. Wells

I hadn’t a clue what the ‘primary and elemental necessities’ were that he was talking about.  But I was determined to find them.   I’m still working on it.

So I’ve been slacking a bit at work this summer, because H.G. Wells is once again whispering to me from across time—to get outside and live—to climb mountains and sail and run and bike and canoe and take time to see the incredible wetlands and the wildlife that are out there just around the bend—right beside personal courage, sound nerves and stark beauty.

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