English 124, The Literature of Wilderness and Exploration

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to my students

 

We live our lives increasingly removed from nature

It’s like we’ve lost touch

Unnatural lives

Come on, human nature is not unnatural

I agree, but surely we can do better

 

If every lion ate only just as many squirrels as he needed to eat,

wouldn’t that be good for both the lion population and the squirrel population?

Yes, but there are always some greedy lions, right?

 

***

 

It’s not perfect, but the Wilderness Act does its job

I’d still revise it

I would too

I’d change the definition of ‘wilderness’ in the Act

I’d dismantle it completely—it only gives us a cop out, like a permission

to trash what is outside its boundaries

Yes, if we didn’t have ‘wilderness’ to fall back upon, we’d take better care of our wilderness

 

Isn’t it strange, these Native Americans saying they have no word for wilderness?

Why should they? It’s home

I think it bothers them, an idea of wilderness that defines itself by separation from the human

In their place, it would bother me too

 

***

 

I don’t want to talk about anything today

I don’t understand how this happened

I was watching the results with my boyfriend and his friend—I had to get up and leave when I heard the reasons why his friend was celebrating

My roommate slept through the night and woke up and asked me who won—I cannot even put into words how much privilege that is, to not care who won

I didn’t sleep, I couldn’t sleep all night

My friend knows a bunch of people who voted third party—because they could!

I don’t see how anything I’m doing matters anymore—what is the point of college?

Yeah, I don’t know who will even hire me when I graduate

Will I graduate?

His policies will stop my scholarship, and I have no other opportunities

He basically wants to electrocute me until I’m straight

Look, we cannot let this define us, we just can’t

 

‘Atomic Dawn’

‘The day I first climbed Mt. St. Helens was August 13, 1945 […] “By

the purity and beauty and permanence of Mt. St. Helens, I will fight

against this cruel destructive power and those who would seek to

use it, for all my life.”’

 

He thought the world really was ending, didn’t he?

And he used it

His anger

And his sadness

How old is he now?

He’s still writing

 

stay together

learn the flowers

go light

 

I mean, these are such clichés—but they…

Yes, they work, don’t they?

 

***

 

Eighteen young people in a classroom

in a town travelling into winter

Tomorrow, remember that you had these conversations

Remember your youth, your compassion, your energy

Remember your willingness to stand in a different pair of shoes

and walk in them

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