Captain’s Log Starship 1XE, Day 27 in the month March, Earth Calendar year 2020.
Hunkering down: Waiting out the storm. Well I’ve done quite a bit of hunkering in my life. Everything from living in a snow cave for a couple of weeks waiting for a summit push to being grounded and watching an approaching hurricane for days on end as it trammeled the atmosphere ahead of it and soaked the earth with deluges from the sky for days afterward.
Hunkering down is one of a small aircraft pilot’s tools for survival as we watch, formulate and wait for our best windows for getting to or continuing toward our destination. With modern technology and increased meteorological knowledge we can paint a pretty good picture of what’s coming, when it is coming and ways to get around it.
Not so right now. Not so, when we, as a community, are facing this new threat called the Covid-19. It seems open ended, it seems never-ending and it can make the strongest of souls search for understanding and a steadiness that is necessary at times like this.
Remembering back at times when I did feel stranded, alone, stressed and unsteady, was a time when we would have to act collectively, calmly and methodically with our teammates when facing the storm. We utilized the 5 Ps that we taught at the National Outdoor Leadership (NOLS) school: Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. And with patience and preparation we got through the storms and continued on our journey. Life’s lessons were that these storms are severe and demand respect but that they do pass. They do pass and they will pass. If we can keep this in mind and stick with the plan of care for each other, social distancing and constant mindfulness we will get through this storm together and be back in the wilds and landscapes that we have worked so diligently to protect for all these years. While I was thinking of passing storms in our life my mind drifted to my great friend John Denver, ever the optimist, who had his share of storms and always looked to the light. And just like John, my beautiful wife and partner Janey shares an indomitable can-do spirit. They both remind me of this lesser-known song by John about Africa and a new day: John Denver, African Sunrise.
Looking forward: we have been so absorbed these past years with trying to stop the current administration’s relentless attacks on protected national monuments, it was a pleasant reprieve recently to work on a new monument formulated by the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe down in the region of Laughlin, Nevada, south of Las Vegas. Laughlin, Nevada, and Bullhead City, Arizona, are only a mile apart but separated by an airport and a time zone, making planning difficult and near impossible. The new monument proposal aims to protect Avi Kwa Ame, known in English as Spirit Mountain, a sacred place for the Mojave and other tribes in the Southern Great Basin. The proposed 384,000-acre monument would also link wildlife habitat to protected areas in California. Our flights with tribal leaders, conservationists and the press were eye-opening for pilot and passengers alike, and landed the first major story about the effort on the front page of the Las Vegas Sun.
These are my reflections on the present situation (the virus) and the future (new monuments), and of course the past. This is a time for us to collectively look to the future, to that African Sunrise John alludes to, and to be our best with ourselves our family and sentient beings. When the clouds break, our protected public lands and the natural world will still be there for us as a place to heal, thanks to the efforts, support and leadership of people like you.