Sacred places revisted

  Dear HCN,


Rob White in his essay "Sacred Places' (HCN, 3/7/94) offers no alternative to what he sees as the evil of "making" places sacred. He states that it's wrong, spiritually. Then what is right? Self-imposed exile from all non-urban places? Purely scientific investigation, excising any spiritual "response'? Absolute secrecy and muteness about what may be, for many, the moments in their lives most worthy of celebration? He seems to feel that writing about a place, or about how a place changes one (and by extension any creative act that refers to a place), is manipulation and betrayal, no matter how it is done, or for what motive.


I still choose to hope that all the bad writing, all the clumsy passages through wild places, all the bragging about "finds' are the crude shapes of what might evolve into a deeply held and acted-upon land ethic, as described by Aldo Leopold. There's at least a chance that such an evolution might take place, or is already beginning to.


Writers like Leopold and Rachel Carson would have resisted sneering at a "sense of wonder," no matter how ineptly expressed at first, knowing it to be a seed that can grow into a more valuable awareness. The influence of that awakening sense can become a strong force, creating an allegiance to a place; in fact, if extended to less and less "flashy" surroundings, it can finally allow us to love and care for the most modest, most abused of landscapes, as Robert Michael Pyle describes in his fine book, The Thunder Tree.


White sounds suspiciously like the loggers I listen to in Dubois, who feel invaded on what they consider to be their territory. I struggle with similar reactions, especially since so many of the new lovers and seekers seem to have a lot more money and leisure time than I do to go chasing down peak experiences. But Mr. White isn't going to get anywhere by simply condemning the phenomenon of being "on the make for great places." Though that phenomenon has wretched effects, it isn't going to go away, and it might not be pure poison.


We might begin by helping to diffuse the passion concentrated on the most dazzling places. When people first learn about a piece of country, they can't see the subtleties; that takes a longer association and more patient watching. A better way to enact our loyalty might be in encouraging people to find the qualities they come for in a much wider sphere.


The question of an inner vs. an outer experience of a wild place seems to me a queer one. If you take the position I do, that the inner and outer worlds are more or less seamless, then whatever responses flow from a place are included as landmarks on it, and one possible turn in the dialogue can be towards gratitude and further attention. Maybe the "inner process' that Mr. White vilifies in his essay can be seen as something to build on. The fantasy of being the first to discover a place can give way to a different kind of devotion.





Hannah Hinchman


Dubois, Wyoming
High Country News Classifieds
  • WESTERN DIVISION DIRECTOR OF FIELD PROGRAMS
    DEADLINE TO APPLY: October 29, 2021 LOCATION FLEXIBLE (WESTERN HUB CITY PREFERRED) Overview The Land Trust Alliance is the voice of the land trust community....
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Communications and Outreach Associate Position Opening: www.westernlaw.org/communications-outreach-associate ************************************************* Location: Western U.S., ideally in one of WELC's existing office locations (Santa Fe or Taos, NM, Helena,...
  • FREELANCE GRAPHIC DESIGNER & PROJECT COORDINATOR (REMOTE)
    High Country News (HCN) is seeking a contract Graphic Designer & Project Coordinator to design promotional, marketing and fund-raising assets and campaigns, and project-manage them...
  • FILM AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF INDIGENOUS MEDIA, CULTURAL SOVEREIGNTY AND DECOLONIZATION (INITIAL REVIEW 12.1.21)
    Film and Digital Media: Assistant Professor of Indigenous Media, Cultural Sovereignty and Decolonization (Initial Review 12.1.21) Position overview Position title: Assistant Professor - tenure-track Salary...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    To learn more about this position and to apply please go to the following URL.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • CENTRAL PARK CULTURAL RESOURCE SPECIALIST
    Agency: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Salary Range: $5,203 - $7,996 Position Title: Central Park Cultural Resource Specialist Do you have a background in Archaeology...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    Come live and work in one of the most beautiful places in the world! As our Staff Attorney you will play a key role in...
  • ARIZONA GRAZING CLEARINGHOUSE
    Dedicated to preventing the ecological degradation caused by livestock grazing on Arizona's public lands, and exposing the government subsidies that support it.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo (friendsoftheinyo.org) is seeking a new Operations Manager. The Operations Manager position is a full-time permanent position that reports directly...
  • WATER RIGHTS BUREAU CHIEF
    Water Rights Bureau Chief, State of Montana, DNRC, Water Resources Division, Helena, MT Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • DEVELOPMENT & OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...
  • DESERT LANDS ORGANIZER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo seeks a Desert Lands Organizer to assist with existing campaigns that will defend lands in the California desert, with...
  • IDAHO CONSERVATION LEAGUE
    Want to help preserve Idaho's land, water, and air for future generations? Idaho Conservation League currently has 3 open positions. We are looking for a...
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.
  • EVENTS AND ANNUAL FUND COORDINATOR
    The Events and Annual Fund Coordinator is responsible for managing and coordinating the Henry's Fork Foundation's fundraising events for growing the membership base, renewing and...
  • EDUCATION DIRECTOR
    Position Description: The Education Director is the primary leader of Colorado Canyons Association's (CCA) education programs for students and adults on the land and rivers...
  • 10 ACRES OF NEW MEXICO HIGH DESERT
    10 Acres of undeveloped high desert land in central NM, about 45 minutes from downtown Albuquerque. Mixed cedar and piñon pine cover. Some dirt roadways...