Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

We Need to Lighten the Load on Our Planet

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

We Need to Lighten the Load on Our Planet

Article excerpt

When I was growing up, my parents' idea of a great vacation was a weeklong backpacking excursion. I was the bookworm in the family, the youngest child, and well, a nice way to put it might be that I was "temperamentally unsuited" to these trips. My dream was to run away to New York City, where I would drink whiskey and smoke cigarettes and write the Great American Novel on a manual typewriter. Nature was not my cup of tea, especially if it included heat, bugs, or physical exertion.

We were the kind of family that hiked on even when it rained so hard that we were slogging through mud above our ankles. This was actual backpacking, mind you, carrying in even our food and much of our water, not day hiking. I complained long and hard about the weight of my pack and the miles we had to put in.

I was known for looking around at some spectacular stretch of trail (these trips were all on different islands of Hawaii, where I grew up) and asking my parents why on earth they had dragged me to this godforsaken place. I frequently threatened to quit.

My stepfather Bob found that he could get me to keep walking if he engaged me in conversation. He worked harder than anyone to help me find the joy in the trail, the sense of accomplishment in reaching our destination, and even the exquisite pleasure of giving in to exhaustion at the end of the day.

It was years before I realized how much heavier his pack was than mine, and how much of my own burden he must have been carrying for me. Of course he never complained. It was just the way he was. I guess he trusted that in time I would learn to walk my own path, at my own pace.

Now, naturally, I love to hike, and I long for opportunities to spend more time in beautiful, wild places. I know that having spent so much time in wilderness as a child shaped my sense of the world, of God, and of myself. My stepfather died this year, and I am so glad that in his final years he saw me embracing the beauty and the wildness of their adopted home of Ketchum, Idaho.

We went on hikes and bike rides together until the Parkinson's that took his life robbed him of the ability to do those things. I know that he knew that I no longer saw those wilderness spots as "godforsaken," but rather as some of the best work that God ever did. …

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