Recognizing Change

The only thing constant is change. Yet as humans with such advanced cognitive attentions, we often struggle to see change and adapt to it, or are we just adapting constantly, regardless of perceived change? That’s the philosophical question, but how does it relate to the picture above- a human created trail for access into an established camp site along Evergreen Creek in The Central Cascades? Someone had hiked in to prepare the area for use in future, showing no obvious sign of actually camping in the space, but hacking several trails to the site, and from it, into the woods beyond. I took a picture of this part of the trail, because I’ve been here in early Spring. During that time, this whole area is inundated with water, and you can see to the right in this picture, there is a more warn trail strewn with rocks, which turns into a stream during heavy rains. The man made trail on the left stays above this stream until a necessary crossing, in which a log has been laid across the flow of water, which will create a block, thus complicating the flow of the stream and causing more erosion and a wider crossing in future. It’s also going to turn into a mud pit this fall, when perhaps hunters will come use the site as a base camp.

In looking at this man made change, there is a familiar narrative of misguided augmentation on the landscape, causing detriment to the space, and in direct opposition to the intended benefit for the person. It’s classic human error due to complete lack of observation, connection, or understanding of the land; beyond creating a direct line to the destination. The trail will grow over in time, but the erosion of the area will worsen, and the access in will become more difficult to traverse. We’ve all been short sighted, but instead of acknowledging mistakes and learning from them, people now, more often than not, blame the other and deflect responsibility. It’s no wonder people have stopped critical thinking to sort fact from fiction, learning from history, or learning at all. Before this narrative explodes into human regression, let’s return to the land. Grounding is about slowing down, feeling, being open to deeper perception, though life is not always ready to accommodate.

This writing is about making hard choices in response to important change, and how hard it can be to accept or even see the big picture, which informs our decisions. To be clear, individual perception is always limited, but when there are multiple eyes on the situation, while becoming more complex, allows for greater understanding. When you add the rich tapestry of language to share different perspectives, you have a much more successful outlook. Community is imperative for us as a species to survive, yet we are also incapable, as individuals, to fully comprehend global thinking. We’re in a rough growing period right now as the human race, trying to see broader, more diverse perspectives, including under represented voices, and still holding clear personal vision. This kind of demanded flex in our thinking is not new, but the acceptance of it when there are so many other perceptions- many of which we’ve never encountered before, can be overwhelming.

Turning now to personal experience, I was recently planning a high hunt in late September. It’s called the high hunt because only lands at elevation are open to the hunt, so you have to get up high into the mountains for a chance to harvest a deer. It would be my first time attempting this feat, which involves hiking into the back country and potentially hauling the animal out under difficult circumstances- similar to the ones at the man made trail on Evergreen Creek. Hunting in the back-country should not be done alone, so my first plan was to invite my partner and a couple of friends out to join me. The two friends are on a learning journey with hunting big game, and also enjoy camping. The only dates they had available were the final weekend of the high hunt season, so we made plans and saved dates. Well, the friends ended up in schedule conflicts, and my partner got a new job- which is great- but his new schedule shaved off a day of the hunt, and I later found that the dates of the hunt did not include Sunday, which gave us just Saturday to hunt. Add to that hunting in an unfamiliar place, hard to access, on a weekend when everyone would be out- not just hunters.

a pair of black tail deer yearlings at EEC Forest Stewardship in September 2021

In trying to rework the plan, I tried setting things up solo, so I could leave earlier, have a day to scout the area, and take on the challenge of being there by myself to at least have the experience. This was only adding more problems to the mix, and when a tenant called to tell me he needed to drive a truck in and out of the sheep pasture (while the sheep were in it), I began to think this trip into the back-country was not viable at this time. Too many plans were changing, and I realized putting myself at risk, on top of all the other compromise, would not be safe. It’s hard to acknowledge change- especially when it means giving up personal passion, for me, hunting. But it’s not a total loss at all. That’s the important forward thinking that can help us adapt with grace. Regular hunting season in the low lands, which I always plan for, and have a rhythm with, will happen. I’ll be home to help my new tenant, and have a good weekend of time to work on the land while the weather holds. The high hunt can wait another year, and I can commit to the occasion by planning further ahead, scouting locations better, and knowing what the true limitations are. Knowledge is power!

There were so many blocks preventing me from seeing the most simple solution because I was caught up in the narrative of failure. That’s a big hindrance to people accepting reality these days, from what I’ve personally experienced, and publicly observed. The situation of hunting, at all costs, could have cost me dearly. To not go alone would have curtailed the hunt to less than a day. We could still go up Saturday and scout the land, we might do that as a day trip and still get a feel for next year. There is always a bright side to any change, that’s important when it’s constant. At this time in seasonal change, slowing down mimics the greater environmental change. As my garden goes to sleep, dropping hard grown seed and composting back into the soil, I too put certain work to bed in preparation for Winter. Just think of all the chaos when plants can’t adapt to seasonal changes in time. I don’t want to get nipped in the bud by a sudden frost if I can help it. The wisdom to recognize change takes practice, and in our short sighted struggle to be right, we often overlook obvious warning signs. In back-country experience, this is often called “the human factor“. It is on us to recognize change and adapt to prevent a cascade of trouble.

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