It seems that the more we improve our roads the less hospitable they are to people.
I remember hearing an engineer at a town hall meeting reveal his proposal for an “improved” road by our summer home. Our neighbor, Mrs. Miller, stood up and said, “Over my dead body! I will lay down in front of your bulldozers before I let you turn our road into a four-lane highway.” As a child hearing her words, I pictured her soft body on the earth, gray hair nestled in fallen pine needles, as heavy machinery roared toward her. I believed her—that she would lay down her life to save the forest—and I have come to understand her passion. She loved that land like life itself.
Mrs. Miller fell in love with the north woods of Minnesota by tending it for all of her years. For me, I fell in love with trees. I am happiest when I am climbing a tree, or at least sitting by one. Every trail I walked and every fort I made out of meadow grass brought me closer to the land. I was wooed by the peace and beauty I found there. It got harder to go play outside as I got older, but now I am trying to make it a priority. Just as our mothers told us, I am telling myself: go out and play. And here’s another childhood mantra: stop, look, and listen. I try not to rush through my nature walks, but, rather, take time to open my senses.
To know the land is, usually, to love it. I believe that loving nature is the beginning of conserving it. Caring about it makes me want to care for it. It seems to me that ecology is an inside job. “Environment” may be defined as something outside myself, but the seed of environmentalism is found within me. How do I care for myself and how do I care for the planet? Mother Earth offers me her talents and, in turn, I use what small gifts I have to protect, enhance, and appreciate her.
Mrs. Miller brought her passion. My father brought research about road regulations that he’d gathered at a university library to prove that the requirement for the width of the road was not as the engineer had claimed. My family and our neighbors loved that land and we showed it. The road was repaved but remained two lanes, and trees and meadows were saved. And it is still a good road to walk or bicycle along.