“Do not go where the path may lead,
go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
I spent my spring break this year doing something that I will remember for the rest of my life. I traveled with ten other IU South Bend representatives to the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park. There, over the course of several days, we constructed a trail at the top of a mountain.
Each morning, we hiked two miles up steep slopes. The existing trail, I would come to discover, was constructed in such a way that it would inevitably wash away in the rain. The park itself was breathtaking. Unmolested, nature is capable of turning chaos into beauty.
In “The Common Life,” Scott Russell Sanders poses the question, “What power could stop loggers from seeing every tree as lumber, stop developers from seeing every acre of land as real estate, stop oil-company executives from seeing our last few scraps of wilderness as pay dirt waiting to be drilled? What would it take… to draw our pleasure from inexhaustible springs?” On our daily journey, I could not help but notice the mark mankind has left on the commercial land surrounding the park. The bare, ruddy soil of mountains scarred to make way for used car dealerships and modular home lots is still vivid in my memory. These wounded giants will never be the same.
It is all too easy to forget the needs of others in the course of our lives. “Others” includes that which is around us besides humanity. We are deeply connected, not only to our friends and neighbors, but to the natural world around us. “A healthy community is dynamic, stirred up by energies of those who already belong, open to new members and fresh influences, kept in motion by the constant bartering of gifts,” says Sanders.
We built that trail as a gift. The trail is a way for others to follow the same long path up the same mountain and gain memories they will never forget. Our greatest common heritage is the world we leave behind. Such memories need to be made. Such scenes need to be seen.
~Ian Spink, Intern, Center for a Sustainable Future