Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sanity restored

Yes, I attended the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear yesterday. It was great. Everyone was polite and fun and friendly. It was basically a live, three-hour Daily Show/Colbert Report Variety Show. Which is exactly what I figured it would be. I never expected this rally to be anything but entertainment. Everyone who pontificated on the meaning of the rally before it happened and thought it would either hit the mark or be a disaster clearly has not watched Stewart and Colbert in action. Or they just don't get it. Either way, yesterday was hours of entertainment, with a not-so-subtle message that politicians and the media reinforce stereotypes and play on our deepest, darkest, irrational fears to acquire and maintain our attention. I thought Jon Stewart's closing address went on just a smidge too long and came off as a little too preachy, but I appreciate and agree with his sentiment. Like many other aspects of modern society, we have latched onto new technology and new process that gives us ever greater access to all of the information and opinion we could ever want, but we didn't stop along the way to figure out how to use it for good and not evil. Like Dr. Frankenstein and his monster, we got so excited about what we created that we didn't build in a function to control it. I don't think politicians are bad, and I don't think that people in the media are bad. I think that our collective ADD has gotten the better of us, and lacking the time or mental agility to process every bit and bite that comes our way, we let the shortest and flashiest pieces capture our attention. To change that, we have to come at it from all directions, make a concerted attempt to alter the way we operate in many different aspects of life.

Jon Stewart's intention for the rally was to say, "I think that all this extremism, perpetuated by both the media and our governmental leaders, is destroying our country, and I want that to change", and to show that there is a critical mass of people in this country who agree with that statement. As Stewart said yesterday, "If you want to know why I’m here and what I want from you, I can only assure you this: you have already given it to me.  Your presence was what I wanted.  Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder.  To see you here today and the kind of people that you are has restored mine.  Thank you." Stewart's message wasn't one of any political or religious persuasion, but rather an attempt to recognize the dark path we've wandered down and turn us back in the other direction, toward something that presents the better in all of us, not the worst. That he did it through humor makes it all the more genius.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It's been too long...

...since I been out West. In the mountains. Among the mule deer and magpies. Where the wind blows between craggy snow-capped rocks and waves the tall grass below an unremitting sky. It's this West where I found myself, met by the Front Range around every corner, pulled down a long road and humbled by the grandest rock temples in Utah, bowled over by brown rolling hills and bubbling mud pots in Montana, beckoned by a nightly loon in Wyoming. I've been to many places where the birds and the squirrels, the flowers and the trees, the sun and the moon have captivated me, left me breathless and sobbing, but only in the West do sorrow and joy feel futile. There, one can stand in a spot away from the roads and neither see nor hear a trace of human presence. Were it not for the clothes on my body and the pack on my back, I would not know when in time I stood in that place. It may as well have been thousands of years in the past, or perhaps many eons ahead. It matters not what I feel for those places, because they do what they have always done, and they will continue doing so long after I am gone. My presence in that place counts for nothing besides the blades of grass my feet have bent down and the warmed air that has been expelled from my lungs. Standing in the open, exposed to the blue sky and the dry wind, I discovered the bold outline of my self, without any tree or building to blur the edges. And when I left that place, a part of me stayed behind, waiting to be reclaimed some day.

That's what the West does. It leaves you aching for more, just a piece to hold, to remember. But like an unrequited love, the sky and the open land don't care about you. They don't need you. They do what they do, and you just get in the way. It's a reminder that we are nothing, we are part of the Earth, we are but one more speck that will pass by this plot in the continuum of time. And still we try to save the Earth, to save ourselves indeed.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

New project

Remember how I said a while ago that I was going to try to use my writing skillz more? Well, it turns out that my editing skillz may be more valuable, and I've found a way to put them to good use. Back at the end of August, I saw a post on the High Country News employment page about a start-up nonprofit organization looking for writers, editors, and photographers to contribute to a webzine (or e-zine, as they called it) that covers issues relating to biodiversity and culture. I contacted them and committed to editing a couple of pieces that they were getting ready to post. Then they realized that I could really edit, not just for grammar and spelling, but for style, content, and structure as well, so I got bumped up to Senior Editor and have received mucho kudos for my skillz (which clearly I am not exhibiting in this post, but whatever). The same thing happened back in high school, when I joined the student newspaper and they made me an editor after the first issue. That's when I decided to go to journalism school. Because as it turns out, no matter what else I may be interested in or enjoy doing, working with words is what I do best. And I love the challenge of molding an article into a piece that's clearly written, compelling, and informative, while maintaining the writer's voice and style. That's what I'm doing for this new organization, and I'm interacting with some fascinating people in the process. Go to to see what some interesting and talented people are working to protect these days.

I don't mean to get a big head about my craft. I don't want to sound like I think I'm some Big Shot just because I know the difference between "its" and "it's" and whether to spell out a number or use a numeral. I'm not trying to brag. It's just that, in counting up everything I have attempted over my thirty years, I realized that I have failed at a lot. That fact is something I just recently came to terms with. I feel like a big fat loser in my current job - in my current life, really - so being reminded that I'm good at something has saved my soul. I can't do algebra or calculus, I don't know much about economics or agricultural practices, I can't run a mile in less than ten minutes or ski or draw or raise a lot of money, but I can work with words, dammit! I'm learning a great deal about wildlife conservation that I couldn't get from a university course, so working with Izilwane is supplementing my education as well. And who knows, maybe it'll lead to a cool new adventure.