A Thanksgiving Reflection on Wilderness By Bethine Church

11.20.2007
When reflecting on the blessings that have enriched my life, I sometimes register these gifts at random, as though going through a file drawer of important things too rarely visited. Thinking of one always suggests others.

When that happens, wild places are high on my list. There is so much cement and blacktop, so much noise, in our lives! It is a blessing to be able to see places as God made them. I grew up on a ranch in Idaho and these special places were the backdrop for our lives. They have continued to be. When Frank and I were courting, there was a meadow near our ranch, right on the edge of the White Cloud Mountains. We would camp there and simply watch the stars as stars are meant to be seen.

That is an experience almost unattainable today but for protected wild places. Unless we fight to preserve them, our children and grandchildren will have that much less to be thankful for.

And that leads me to another gift for which I am thankful: the millions of Americans who rarely get to visit these places but who nonetheless rise up in defense of wilderness as both special place and vibrant idea. This is an act of generosity and faith. Surely, it is also an act of thanksgiving.

When Frank was working to guide the Wilderness Act of 1964 through the Senate, many of our Idaho neighbors said, "Oh, wilderness is just something for easterners, for rich people, not for us." They were wrong.

It is gratifying to see how Americans use wilderness today - as families, even toddlers, with backpacks large and small! That has been the case in our family, too. We've rafted together down the River of No Return in what is now the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. Those experiences strengthened our family and left our children and grandchildren a priceless legacy: a love of unspoiled places.

And as I sift through my little file cabinet of blessings, I am thankful for you and other WildAlert subscribers. We have a saying here in the West: "When you see a turtle on top of a fence post, you know it didn't get there by itself." We could not have come as far as we have come in our wilderness journey without you - without your willingness to act, without your generosity, without your commitment.

As I celebrate this most American of holidays with my own family, I will be thinking of you and yours. Thankfully.

-Bethine Church

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True that! Idaho is lucky to have active Wilderness defenders like Bethine.

-HSG

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