"Faith and the Tongass"
I was once blessed with a teacher who was nothing less than a modern day Socrates - minus the robes, beard, and hemlock laced whiskey sour. Professor Callahan was both brilliant and quick witted. Her words were sometimes acid, but more often she whispered encouragement. Like any good teacher, Professor Callahan was a harsh task master, and though she did not demand perfection from her students she did insist that we strive toward that goal. In turn, she modeled the very same work ethic she demanded. Professor Callahan was no Hollywood, Edward James Olmos caricature of a teacher. She was every bit the real deal. I've banked twenty years, fifty pounds, and three children since I first stepped timidly into the Iron Lady's classroom, and still there's one lesson that stays with me.
"Mr. Daley ..."
"Ughhh ... Yes."
"Tell us Mr. Daley, have you a romantic interest - a woman, perhaps a man - whose company you enjoy?"
"Yes ... a woman. Definitely a woman."
"Spare the emphasis. No need to proclaim your manhood to the class. You're in love?"
"And she loves you?"
Needless to say, I could not prove that I was in love (with the woman who eventually became my wife) any more than I could demonstrate the existence of God. For what seemed an hour, I only managed a stammering picture of my own juvenile insecurity and sophomoric ineptitude; I have to believe that was precisely the point of Professor Callahan's lesson. Some things simply have to be taken on faith. Faith - and her sister Hope - sometimes demands we move beyond the limits of the tangible, empirical, data-driven world in which we live. Sometimes we simply need to believe.
And I do believe. I believe there are places in the world that are well worth my day dreams. I believe in wild places hidden from the lecherous gaze of human progress - places that remind us of what the world once was and demonstrate what the world could be. I believe there are places worth protecting - places that are foreign to me but every bit as precious as the places I know well. I believe in the Tongass.
The sad and simple fact is that most of us will never see the Tongass. We'll never know the stinging sweetness of its salt tinged air. We'll never feel the moss give way under our feet as we stroll along one of its 17,000 river miles. We'll never see wolves sprint through the timber, or brown bears gorge on wild salmon. We'll never know the feel of a place that counts time not by the hour, but by the millennium.
Still, I believe. I believe the day may come when my children or grandchildren will travel to the Tongass. I believe they'll taste the air and wade the rivers that wind across our collective unconscious. I believe they'll see a place that remains as it always has been - untouched, wild, primal - "the best of what's left." Finally, I believe that those of us who do the work now will inspire those who'll continue the work later.
This is my submission to the Trout Unlimited 2013 Blogger Tour sponsored by Fishpond, Tenkara USA and RIO, and hosted by the Outdoor Blogger Network.