Aug 172011

Yosemite Valley is a compact anthology of all geological forms, and the finest expression of them, gathered with fortunate authority. The L.A. Zoo, all creatures in naturalistic habitats with no visible cages, the index volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica, the phone book to Noah’s Ark, Professor Hudson’s “Shakespeare’s Greatest Metaphors,” the Shorter Norton Anthology of…. And gathered, neither by the boring authority of scholarship, nor by the regal impress of a royal society, but by the stamp, character and holy collation (as an Imam might say) of Allah Himself. An Empire built of rarities and one-offs, examples so fine in detail and exactitude that, though they kneel as humble one-ofs, mere examples, they arise exemplars. Granite domes and granite monoliths, “the most and the largest,” clump like pods of dinosaur whales fallen bone-solid out of time. “Supreme scenic attractions,” shadowed sequoia elaborate as mandarins, and pristine alpine peaks, plus the standing thunder of the many falls, streams that tumble like expert divers a thousand feet into a water glass. “Birthplace of the idea of the Sierra Club,” that titanic thumb-wrestle over the morality of “preservation” vs. use, turning a “shrinking world” into discrete sets of cloistered, administered terrariums whose only boundary is our sense of shame. Shame that the natural world has been attacked and diminished on our watch, shame for the naked parade of our own appetites, the Cain in us giving his least good grain to God and grinding it instead for his children’s bread. Oh, shame!

How shall we stop the sea when she comes to reclaim her ancient course through these wild heights? How shall we metronome the rain, or corral our breaths and limit the lascivious CO2 of honeymooners? Oh, shame.

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