Since last week’s trip to the Navarino Wildlife Area, whoever is in charge over there took the caterpillar track trail clearer machine out in the woods, flattening numerous saplings, some oaks even, along the trail’s edge. I’ve seen the footprint of that Machine on the west side of Navarino. This past week it was apparently slated to wreak its havoc on the east side. Not sure why. I noticed some flowage drain valves along the way that might demand regular maintenance; I wondered if they’re prepping some trails for cross-country skiing.
A small trail heading west from the one that took me to Townline Road last week was one of those paths widened by the Machine this past week. I didn’t notice that trail last week, but I know the “Improvements” were done recently because the leaves on the toppled saplings haven’t had time to wilt. I was pretty sure I was somewhere between the railroad tracks and the Townline Trail, but I had left my map at home so Pastor Julie could direct the authorities to my whereabouts should I have failed to return home at the appointed time.
So I didn’t have a great idea about where I was. The trail veered to run parallel to the tracks through some pretty swampy woods and then climbed up suddenly to a high, firm berm along what I later learned was likely the Schultz Flowage. It’s a long, north-south oriented flowage that had overwhelmed a couple enormous, starkly barkless trees, light gray against the dark sky and the yellow, orange, red, and dark green wall of woods about a half mile behind it. A gorgeous picture, and the wind, which had been tossing the trees not long before in an alarming manner, had completely calmed down. Peace. Beauty. I was about to pull out my camera to spend some time taking pictures of it all when a terrible tearing sound seemed to be ripping the sky in two directly overhead.
Apparently the sky was torn in two since seconds later rain came pouring down. I wasn’t due back for another half hour, but the lightning made me rethink my life. I turned around. Which was a bummer. I felt like I had stumbled into the Garden of Eden minus Eve, who, of course, was back home slaving away. Peace. Beauty. I’ve had this feeling and thought several times when I’ve been out in the wilderness and each time I’m reminded that as much as I’d like to stay in Paradise, it’s not our place. As the Bible tells the tale, the Garden of Eden is still on the earth. Many tales have been told since, too, of people setting out to find it. In areas mostly untouched by civilization, to me, remnants of the Garden are real. And, as the Bible tells it, we’re not welcome to live there. It’s not our home. It’s not to be overrun with people and commercial exploits. The creatures who depend upon the wilderness: they were not thrown out. Ironically, the crown of Creation, the human beings: they were thrown out.
Still, we were created to have dominion over Creation. Psalm 72 defines the Hebrew word translated as dominion as delivering, pitying, saving, and redeeming those who have no helper, because their blood is precious. The wilderness, Paradise and its creatures, truly have no helper, no voice. And in the blood of all creatures lives nephesh, the breath of life, the same breath of life that lives in our own blood.
Not coincidentally, a story about our dominion over the dusky gopher frog appeared in today’s newspaper. In an attempt to save these rare frogs, several habitats were protected for them under the Endangered Species Act. One of the habitats, a place where the frogs had flourished before 1965, is currently owned by a family who leases the land to the Weyerhaeuser Corporation. The Weyerhaeuser Corporation is disputing protecting the area, because then the land will be worth less both to Weyerhaeuser and the family, because it will no longer be able to be harvested for trees or developed further. The government has not offered to buy the land or to reimburse the family for the family’s loss of income. I suppose it’s hard to see how much income that would be from now until Jesus returns, but Weyerhaeuser says the value of the land itself would be reduced by 33 million dollars.
Which unfortunately pits a couple hundred rare frogs against the loss of 33 million dollars. We’ve been through this before: preserving wilderness for a rare species at the cost of millions of dollars.
If I owned the 1500 acres of swamp that would help save the dusky gopher frog, I wouldn’t demand 33 million dollars to cover my property losses. I’d settle for a nice sign saying I was happy to have my land become a home for the frogs, and I’d ask God to station the cherubim there, armed with “a sword flaming and turning” (Genesis 3:24).
I would then at least be standing on firm Biblical ground.