Was that too internet-deadpan for you?
Try this (I hiked there this weekend, instead of blogging):
Remember how I said I’d refrain from writing EVEN ABOUT DEMOCRACY till the health care decision rained down from the high courts?
Well, baby, let it rain.
One of the things that’s great about having been an academic is that I can do something like a family hike at Yosemite and think about all the theories that might, for someone else, spoil the trip. But for me, it makes the trip nicer. Which is prolly why I bothered getting a Ph.D. in the first place. I read the last pages of novels first. I theorize and rip things to pieces. And I like it that way. Even on a hike in one of our most treasured national parks. What am I gonna do? Look at the ragged, majestic beauty? Hah.
For example: I saw the spirit of our country on the Yosemite shuttle bus. It’s not quite the Supermarket in California, and I’m no Ginsberg. But it was California. And I did sense Walt Whitman.
Masses of people. Families. Children. Tourists. Many languages. Looking up, always looking up. Fancy hotels, bare campgrounds, motor lodges. Park the car and walk. Or take the shuttle.
Butterflies by the swimming pool.
Four flavors of ice cream.
And always looking up.
Did you keep your mouth closed when you looked up? Or did you have to let it drop to better see the granite sheers and crags?
I’m not bothered by hikes that are paved and crowded. People in headscarves, people in baseball hats. People with backpacks full of water. People with retractable walking sticks. People with children on their backs and shoulders. Looking up.
In grad school I learned about the constructedness of nature: We create a place where we feel we can get away from the press of humanity and its built-ness. A fantasy of isolation, of wilderness, of an authentic Nature that restores our American souls.
But we create these spaces. And we vigilantly police them. And we pave them, sometimes, so that the hiking paths are strong enough to withstand all of America visiting Yosemite’s Vernal Falls in June. To see for themselves, the way everyone else is seeing for her and himself.
If I had the chutzpah (and equipment) to do real backcountry camping in Yosemite, to get away from the power lines and the glottal languages and the snack shacks, I’d still be in a space designated and maintained by our government to preserve the ways that America looked before we got here and parked all over it. I’d still be there because of something about non-nature, pushing me to escape the straight lines and chemicals and sewers. And pretend that Yosemite’s backcountry isn’t built, itself, of all our fantasies of pure nature and real America.
I love it. I wanna go back.
Also, health care.