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The Mountains Are Calling and I Must Not Go

Happy May Day, 2020—from inside!

Today is Day 43 of California’s quarantine. Six weeks of the same apartments, homes, streets, and grocery stores. No family members over for dinner, no meeting friends for drinks. All the small joys that filled our weekends have been stolen away from all of us for over a month. As the weather has turned nicer, it’s also meant no camping, no hiking. Closed parks, closed trails. No natural reset to rejuvenate the spirit and wash my soul of the daily grind that’s shrunken to the same set of walls every day. Two national forests are within a 20-minute drive of my front door. Five national parks are within four hours—NINE are within seven hours! Springtime, wildflowers, temperate foothills, budding trees, snow-capped mountains, and miles of trails beckon my name! And I must not go. Some of the country has started an ill-advised re-opening. It is a decision that will certainly result in enormous suffering and death. What’s worse is that it’s being done in the name of a perverted version of “freedom,” where an individual’s right to make money is sacrosanct over another’s right to live.

One of the great joys of spending time in the natural world is beginning to find your place in it. Learning how my choices—our choices—are interconnected; how nature doesn’t really begin or end; how this world is for all of us and everything in it, simultaneously. That in this Great Pause we are not only protecting each other from a virus, but maybe something more. We’ve seen air clear over cities. Wildlife has reclaimed congested portions of our national parks. Climate changing emissions are estimated to drop 8% this year. Oil has crashed and proven itself as a commodity of the past. We’re witnessing the world come together to solve a global calamity in real time. COVID-19 has proved that worldwide agency isn’t just governments and the very rich (although they’re extremely helpful), it’s each and every one of us doing the right thing. Winston Churchill once said, “There is something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty.” That responsibility right now is to each other—to protect our neighbors, friends, and families. Keep staying home, keep staying safe. But this moment has provided a glimpse at what we can all do when we’re determined to fight for each other. While for the foreseeable future it’s the coronavirus, our collective attention must later turn to the world’s next greatest threat: climate change. Our resolve today prepares our resolve for tomorrow. Otherwise, a selfish bastardized version of "freedom" threatens to kill us all.

So while the mountains are calling, I must not go.


Originally Published: May 1, 2020


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