Complexities of man vs. nature | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Complexities of man vs. nature

A few weeks before the snow fell, I hiked up to a peak in Hope Valley.

As I reached the high point, a familiar thought seeped into my mind. I always wonder if I might be able to alter the shape of the peak ever so slightly.

Once you are on top, most peaks around here resemble nothing more than a pile of jagged boulders heaped in a haphazard manner. It almost seems like you could move a few of them and slowly flatten the top of the mountain. Push a couple of rocks downhill and you could lower the peak a couple of inches.



It would be like Sisyphus in reverse. An eternity spent pushing rocks downhill instead of uphill. Not quite a reflection of the myth, but an engaging thought nevertheless.

So I think, what if I just moved a couple of them. It doesn’t take long for me to come to my senses as I realize most are too big for me to lift. So I sit down and settle for picking up fist size rocks and tossing them toward bigger rocks and watching them break into smaller pieces. This feels like an acceptable substitute.




It causes minimal destruction and there’s absolutely no one within range who might catch the fallout. I’m just helping nature do it’s job. There’s a certain satisfaction in my personal contribution to the erosion process.

Mostly I’m picking up rocks that are randomly strewn about. Eventually I focus on ones that still seem to be part of bigger rocks. The type that are like a little piece of a huge rock puzzle.

The first one I pry loose has probably been sitting there for centuries and it would probably be many years before it slipped out of its resting place on its own. I feel a small pang of guilt as I wiggle the rock from its secure slot.

Yes, I’m really on the edge here. This is the gateway to anti-social behavior and real environmental degradation. I know this will lead to cutting across switchbacks, walking through the center of fragile meadows, or planting nonnative vegetation. Too late, it’s done as I fling the stone toward the bigger rock.

It shatters.

There’s barely time for the massive guilt to flood my mind when I look down at the spot where I removed the rock. What do I see? A bug scurry away? An image of a past girlfriend? A nugget of gold?

No, of course not!! I see a soft cylindrical man-made object shoved between two rocks. Two rocks that had not been separated for all their eons of existence had a humanly manufactured product jammed between them.

It stunned me! How could there be such a foreign thing right there. Someone else had actually sat right there and squeezed it in there.

Now, I’ve lived here a long time and I’ve always known that just about anywhere I’ve hiked has been traveled by others. I’ve no illusions that I’m the first one anywhere.

Still, actual evidence that someone had been here and been oblivious or careless about what they left behind was deflating. Maybe it was my fault for trying to speed the natural erosion process. Maybe nature was telling me I shouldn’t have thrown those rocks. Who knows! In any event, my mood was changed ever so slightly. No longer was I absorbing the beautiful landscape. My thoughts were on the man-made object.

I’m not going to exaggerate and say it ruined the day, but it did change my thinking. Someone who was not anywhere nearby, who might even not still be alive had managed to send me in a different direction. A solitary act somehow managed to span time and distance and have a small impact.

It made me think of what some of the bigger actions and activities humans are prone to commit and what might be their results. Just pick up the newspaper or turn on the TV and see what we’re doing every day. Fill in the blank. Yes, people have done far worse things than leave something behind on a mountain. But maybe that’s the point! What careless human activities have caused real damage? Many thoughtless actions, lots of bad results.

But, that’s OK. I’m thinking about other things now. No need to dwell on it. My attention is caught by a nice shiny thing on the trail. It’s a nicely crafted machine made object lying on the ground in front of me. You can get them in almost any store. I think I’ll pick it up and take it with me. That way someone else won’t get distracted when they come up here.

Our thoughts and actions are not as isolated as you might think.

Lincoln Moy is a graphic artist at the Tahoe Daily Tribune. Off-Beat is a column written by staff members whenever they feel like it


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