Air Date: Week of February 23, 1996
Author Stephen Trimble reads an essay he wrote contained in a book he helped compile titled Testimony. The essay is on his encounters with the Utah wilderness and why he feels it should be conserved.
TRIMBLE: My name is Stephen Trimble. I live in Salt Lake City, Utah, though I think of most of the West as my home. I am one of 20 writers who contributed to a collection of essays called Testimony. Last fall, we presented this book to Congress, a way for writers of the west to apply our skills at articulating our feelings about the Utah wilderness to a political debate.
My place of refuge is a wilderness canyon in southern Utah. Its scale is exactly right. Smooth curves of sandstone embrace and cradle me. From the road, I cross a mile of slick rock to reach the stream. This creek runs year round, banked by orchids and ferns. Entering the tangle of greenery I rediscover paradise. The canyon is a secret, a power spot, a place of pilgrimage. I found this canyon in my youth 20 years ago. I came here again and again. I brought special friends and lovers. When my wife and I met, and I discovered she knew this place, I felt certain she knew a place deep within me as well.
On those early trips I rarely saw other people. Once in the velvet light before dawn, I awoke, sat bolt upright, and looked past my sleeping bag into a lone ponderosa pine, a tree that brought the spicy scent of mountain forest to this desert canyon. A few seconds later, a great horned owl noiselessly landed on a branch and looked back at me with fierce eyes. The owl flew down canyon, searching for unwary mice. I lay back, fell asleep, and awoke again when the sun warmed me.
I bathed in plunge pools, and waded along the stream, learning to pay attention. Looking for reflections and leaf patterns and rock forms to photograph. Details I would not see if the canyon had not taught me to look. Never before had I spent so much time alone on the land. Here I matured as a naturalist and photographer and as a human being. This wilderness canyon made me whole. It still can restore me to wholeness when the stress of my life pulls me thin. It bestows peace of mind that lasts for months.
These landscapes nourish and teach and heal. They help keep us sane. They give us strength. They connect us to our roots in the earth. They remind us that we share in the flow of life and death. We encounter animals in their native place, and they look into our eyes with the amalgam of indifference and companionship that separates us from and unites us with other creatures. A garden can connect us with wildness. Wilderness connects us with our ancestral freedoms even more powerfully. We need to preserve every chance to have such experiences. In doing so we demonstrate our trustworthiness, our capacity to take a stand on behalf of the land.
For we have reached the end of the Gold Rush. This wild country is our home, not simply one more stop on the way to the next boomtown. The wilderness canyons of Utah belong not to an elite cadre of backpackers. Not to the cattle raising families of Escalante and Kanab. Not to the Bureau of Land Management. They belong to all citizens of the United States. In truth they belong to no one. They are a magnificent expression of the powers of the Earth, and we Americans hold Utah wilderness in trust for all humans and all life on our planet.
CURWOOD: Writer Stephen Trimble is based in Salt Lake City. He helped compile the book Testimony: Writers of the West Speak on Behalf of Utah Wilderness.
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