ReBlog: A #NoDAPL Map

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This blog post about the importance of maps and the Standing Rock protests is worth a read.

When I decided to become a cartographer, I didn’t just want to make pretty and useful maps. I became a cartographer to make maps that change the world for the better. Right now, no situation …

Source: A #NoDAPL Map

Remembering The Early Morning Bear

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The following memory was originally posted as an answer to a question on Quora. I’ve decided it is worth displaying here on my blog.

I was camping in the boundary waters of northern MN (Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness). I was a Volunteer In Park (VIP) through the Student Conservation Association (The Student Conservation Association), so was living out of a tent, on an island, for the better part of a summer. Our team’s only contact with the outside world was a walkie talkie and transportation between worksites (islands) was a small collection of canoes. In short, I wasn’t just in bear territory, I was camped out in their living room.

The good thing was this: it was so remote and so seldom used by the general public that the bears were appropriately afraid of human beings. Do something stupid, and they will attack. Leave food out in the open, and they will eat it. Conduct yourself in a proper manner and, for the most part, they’ll leave you alone.

One night, I crawled out of the tent to take a pee. I’m one of those people who will try to ignore nature in favor of staying in my sleeping bag for as long as humanly possible (so nice and cozy warm!) so this was a serious need. As soon as I made my rather noisy exit and stood up, the first thing I noticed was a mother bear and two cubs.

They were close. Way to close for comfort. If I’d been less awake or observant, I would have walked right into them on the way to our communal outdoor toilet – so 25 yards, give or take.

They appeared to be passing through, but the noise and movement created by me caught the mother bear’s attention and all three bears stopped while she moved her large head from side to side, looking around. I froze out of sheer instinct.

What little I know about hunting in the Midwest immediately followed instinct and I made sure to NOT look the mother in the eye. The night was reasonably dark and there was no wind, so my groggy half-awake and (therefore) mostly animal-instinct driven brain decided my best chances for survival were silence, no-movement and no eye contact.

The reason for the emphasis on no eye contact is this: whether you are hunting prey (e.g.: a deer) or predator (e.g.: a bear), no amount of camouflage will work if you make the mistake of looking the animal in the eye. Even while using a set of binoculars from the upper branches of a tree, the animal will sense the connection and take off. This was something they taught in the hunter’s safety course I took during elementary school, but I’ve never been hunting (before this moment or since) so this was one of the only opportunities I’ve ever had to test the theory – and there was only one option I was willing to try.

After a few long moments of patient statue-standing and waiting, the mother bear made a soft snorting sound, the bear cubs went back to the happy tumbling walk that bear cubs have and the three continued on their way.

As soon as I was no longer able to either see or hear them, I relaxed, took a much needed pee, and escaped back into my tent. That tent seemed terribly flimsy and felt entirely non-protective. I stared at the ceiling for a long time before I was finally able to go back to sleep.

It was scary.

It was AWESOME!

Yeah, I know – I’m a little weird.

Environmental Empowerment

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“It is empowering to believe we can stay in good health by making the right choices in lifestyle. It is equally empowering, however, to realize that these choices also extend to the natural world, the environment.”

Animal, Mineral, Radical: Essays on Wildlife, Family, and Food by BK Loren

Wild Boys, Witches and Roast Squirrel

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Sarah visited the boys every day, and although at first she was worried about them being out on their own in the Forest, she was impressed by the network of igloos they built and noticed that some of the younger Wendron Witches had taken to dropping by with small offerings of food and drink. Soon it became rare for Sarah to find her boys without at least two or three young witches helping them cook a meal or just sitting around the campfire laughing and telling jokes. It surprised Sarah just how much fending for themselves had changed the boys—they all suddenly seemed so grown up, even the youngest, Jo-Jo, who was still only thirteen. After a while Sarah began to feel a bit of an interloper in their camp, but she persisted in visiting them every day, partly to keep an eye on them and partly because she had developed quite a taste for roast squirrel.

Septimus Heap, Book One: Magyk by Angie Sage

You Know How I Feel

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Feeling Good

“Fish in the sea, you know how I feel
River runnin’ free, you know how I feel
Blossom on the tree, you know how I feel
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day,
it’s a new life for me,
And I’m feelin’ good”

“Stars when you shine, you know how I feel
Scent of the pine, you know how I feel
Yeah, freedom is mine, and I know how I feel..
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me”

I Put A Spell on You by Nina Simone

We Need What We Fear

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“If the lion, in all its dark, nocturnal otherness, in all its light, internal sameness, does not exist for future generations, if we destroy its habitat, or call open season on it, what could we possibly find to replace it? It is precisely because we fear large predators that we need them. They hold within them so many things we have lost, or are on the verge of losing, personally and collectively, permanently and forever. If we sacrifice the fear, we also sacrifice the strength, the wildness, the beauty, the awe.”

Animal, Mineral, Radical: Essays on Wildlife, Family, and Food by BK Loren

Trail Magic

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There is a phenomenon called Trail Magic, known and spoken of with reverence by everyone who hikes the trail, which holds that often when things look darkest some little piece of serendipity comes along to put you back on a heavenly plane.

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail (Official Guides to the Appalachian Trail) by Bill Bryson

True Bliss

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“Joints straining, she edged another few inches up the rock. Then a few more. Her hands were dry with chalk, cracked and bloody. Her lips were chapped. Her whole body was sweaty. The sun was baking down on an unseasonably warm day. But really, this was bliss. Just her body and the rock, with nothing but the sound of a few birds and the nearby creek tumbling down the hillside.”

Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn

Community Defined

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If diversity’s what it’s all about, then our neighborhood is all that and a bag of chips. But without a shared sense of purpose, diversity spells conflict and isolation, not opportunity. I figure that tract of land is what brought us together. None of us is about to give that up.

Before I stepped out of my house that cold morning three years ago, I might have told you “community” was some kind of Up with People fantasy—like-minded folks sharing a Norman Rockwell moment. Now I think community has little to do with like minds. It has to do with very differently minded people finding a way to get along because we all live in, are connected to, and share a sense of place.

Animal, Mineral, Radical: Essays on Wildlife, Family, and Food by BK Loren

Feel the Earth

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Ian really dazzled them when he said the rock itself was 2.7 billion years old. Billion with a B. She felt like a moth or an otter on this ancient rock and wondered how humans had got to thinking they were so important, with their bad TV and endless malls, when this rock had been here almost since the beginning of time. Ian had been saying that wild places are important because there’s no other way to know completely about how deep nature is except to lie on a rock like this, listen to water slapping the shore, watch dragonflies patrolling, and to smell deep down what the earth has always been. Now she understood.”

Summer of The Wolves by Polly Carlson-Voiles